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iiMMMMmiiiiriiriiwi I mm wiMmataatttBifwatfeHai:. 

Ipurcbaset) tor tbe Xibrar^ of tbe 

'innivcrsit^ of Toronto 

out ot tbe procee&s ot tbe timO 

bequeatbeD b^ 

Z. B. pbillips Stewart, B.a., 

Ob. A.D. 1892. 

•The?)^ o 



Reprinted April, 1903. 

J. S. Cuahing & Co. — Berwick & Smith 
Norwood Mua. U.S.A. 








Old Stories: page 

I. The Legend of Yurei-Daki . . . . . . 3 

II. In a Cup of Tea 9 

III. Common Sense . .19 

IV. Ikiryo 29 

V. Shiryo 37 

VI. The Story of 0-Kame 45 

VII. Story of a Ry 55 

VIII. Story of a Pheasant 63 

IX. The Story of Chugord 71 

A Woman's Dury 83 

Heik£-gani . 129 

Fireflies 135 

A Drop of Dew 171 

Gaki 179 

A Matter of Custom 201 

Revery 207 

Pathological 217 

In the Dead of the Night 225 

KusA-HiBARi 235 

The Eater of Dreams 243 


Old Stories 

The following nine tales have been selected from the '■'■Shin- 
Chomon-Shu,'''' " Hyaku Monogatari^'^ " Uji-fui-Monogatari-Sho^'* 
and other old fapanese books, to illustrate some strange beliefs. 
They are only Curios. 


The Legend of Yurei-Daki 

The Legend of Yurei-Daki 

NEAR the village of Kurosaka, in the 
province of H5ki, there is a waterfall 
called Yurei-Daki, or The Cascade of 
Ghosts. Why it is so called I do not know. 
Near the foot of the fall there is a small Shinto 
shrine of the god of the locality, whom the people 
name Taki-Daimyojin ; and in front of the shrine 
is a little wooden money-box — saisen-bako — to 
receive the offerings of believers. And there is a 
story about that money-box. 

One icy winter's evening, thirty-five years ago, 
the women and girls employed at a certain asa- 
toriba, or hemp-factory, in Kurosaka, gathered 
around the big brazier in the spinning-room after 
their day's work had been done. Then they amused 
themselves by telling ghost-stories. By the time 
that a dozen stories had been told, most of the gath- 
ering felt uncomfortable; and a girl cried out, just to 



heighten the pleasure of fear, " Only think of going 
this night, all by one's self, to the Yurei-Daki ! " 
The suggestion provoked a general scream, fol- 
lowed by nervous bursts of laughter. ... "I'll 
give all the hemp I spun to-day," mockingly said 
one of the party, " to the person who goes ! " 
"So will I," exclaimed another. "And I," said a 
third. " All of us," affirmed a fourth. . . . Then 
from among the spinners stood up one Yasumoto 
O-Katsu, the wife of a carpenter ; — she had her 
only son, a boy of two years old, snugly wrapped 
up and asleep upon her back. " Listen," said 
O-Katsu ; " if you will all really agree to make over 
to me all the hemp spun to-day, I will go to the 
Yurei-Daki." Her proposal was received with cries 
of astonishment and of defiance. But after having 
been several times repeated, it was seriously taken. 
Each of the spinners in turn agreed to give up 
her share of the day's work to O-Katsu, providing 
that O-Katsu should go to the Yurei-Daki. " But 
how are we to know if she really goes there ? " 
a sharp voice asked. "Why, let her bring back 
the money-box of the god," answered an old 
woman whom the spinners called Obaa-San, the 
Grandmother ; " that will be proof enough/' " I'll 


bring it," cried O-Katsu. And out she darted into 
the street, with her sleeping boy upon her back. 

The night was frosty, but clear. Down the 
empty street O-Katsu hurried ; and she saw that all 
the house fronts were tightly closed, because of the 
piercing cold. Out of the village, and along the 
high road she ran — picba-picba — with the great 
silence of frozen rice-fields on either hand, and only 
the stars to light her. Half an hour she followed 
the open road ; then she turned down a narrower 
way, winding under cliffs. Darker and rougher the 
path became as she proceeded ; but she knew it well, 
and she soon heard the dull roar of the water. 
A few minutes more, and the way widened into a 
glen, — and the dull roar suddenly became a loud 
clamor, — and before her she saw, looming against 
a mass of blackness, the long glimmering of the 
fall. Dimly she perceived the shrine, — the 
money-box. She rushed forward, — put out her 
hand. . . . 

"Oi! O-Katsu-San ! " ^ suddenly called a warn- 
ing voice above the crash of the water. 

* The exclamation Oi ! is used to call the attention of a person : it is the Japan- 
ese equivalent for luch English exclamations as " Halloa ! " <* Ho, there ! " etc. 


O-Katsu stood motionless, — stupefied by terror. 

" 0/ / O-Katsu-San ! " again pealed the voice, — 
this time with more of menace in its tone. 

But O-Katsu was really a bold woman. At once 
recovering from her stupefaction, she snatched up 
the money-box and ran. She neither heard nor saw 
anything more to alarm her until she reached the 
highroad, where she stopped a moment to take 
breath. Then she ran on steadily, — picha-picha, — 
till she got to Kurosaka, and thumped at the door 
of the asa-toriba. 

How the women and the girls cried out as she 
entered, panting, with the money-box of the god 
in her hand ! Breathlessly they heard her story ; 
sympathetically they screeched when she told them 
of the Voice that had called her name, twice, out of 
the haunted water. . . . What a woman ! Brave 
O-Katsu ! — well had she earned the hemp ! . . . 
" But your boy must be cold, O-Katsu ! " cried 
the O baa-San, "let us have him here by the 
fire ! " 

"He ought to be hungry," exclaimed the 
mother ; " I must give him his milk presently." 
... " Poor O-Katsu ! " said the Obaa-San, help- 


ing to remove the wraps in which the boy had 
been carried, — "why, you are all wet behind!" 
Then, with a husky scream, the helper vocifer- 
ated, ''Ara! it is blood ! " 

And out of the wrappings unfastened there fell 
to the floor a blood-soaked bundle of baby clothes 

that left 
very small 
and two very 
hands — no- 
The child's 
been torn 

exposed two 
brown feet, 
small brown 
thing more, 
head had 
ofF! . . . 

In a Cup of Tea 

In a Cup of Tea 

HAVE you ever attempted to mount some 
old tower stairway, spiring up through 
darkness, and in the heart of that darkness 
found yourself at the cobwebbed edge of nothing ? 
Or have you followed some coast path, cut along 
the face of a cliff, only to discover yourself, at a 
turn, on the jagged verge of a break ? The emo- 
tional worth of such experience — from a literary 
point of view — is proved by the force of the sen- 
sations aroused, and by the vividness with which 
they are remembered. 

Now there have been curiously preserved, in old 
Japanese story-books, certain fragments of fiction 
that produce an almost similar emotional experience. 
. . . Perhaps the writer was lazy ; perhaps he 
had a quarrel with the publisher ; perhaps he was 
suddenly called away from his little table, and 
never came back ; perhaps death stopped the 
writing-brush in the very middle of a sentence. 


But no mortal man can ever tell us exactly why 
these things were left unfinished. ... I select 
a typical example. 

On the fourth day of the first month of the third 
Tenwa, — that Is to say, about two hundred and 
twenty years ago, — the lord Nakagawa Sado, while 
on his way to make a New Year's visit, halted with 
his train at a tea-house in Hakusan, in the Hong5 
district of Yedo. While the party were resting 
there, one of the lord's attendants, — a wakato ^ 
named Sekinai, — feeling very thirsty, filled for 
himself a large water-cup with tea. He was rais- 
ing the cup to his lips when he suddenly perceived, 
in the transparent yellow infusion, the image or 
reflection of a face that was not his own. Startled, 
he looked around, but could see no one near him. 
The face in the tea appeared, from the coiflfure, to 
be the face of a young samurai : it was strangely 

1 The armed attendant of a samurai was thus called. The relation of the tvakatd 
to the samurai was that of squire to knight. 


distinct, and very handsome, — delicate as the face 
of a girl. And it seemed the reflection of a living 
face ; for the eyes and the lips were moving. 
Bewildered by this mysterious apparition, Sekinai 
threw away the tea, and carefully examined the 
cup. It proved to be a very cheap water-cup, with 
no artistic devices of any sort. He found and 
filled another cup ; and again the face appeared in 
the tea. He then ordered fresh tea, and refilled 
the cup ; and once more the strange face appeared, 
— this time with a mocking smile. But Sekinai 
did not allow himself to be frightened. " Whoever 
you are," he muttered, " you shall delude me no 
further ! " — then he swallowed the tea, face and all, 
and went his way, wondering whether he had 
swallowed a ghost. 

Late in the evening of the same day, while on 
watch in the palace of the lord Nakagawa, Sekinai 
was surprised by the soundless coming of a 
stranger into the apartment. This stranger, a 
richly dressed young samurai, seated himself 
directly in front of Sekinai, and, saluting the wakat'o 
with a slight bow, observed : — 

" I am Shikibu Heinai — met you to-day for 


the first time. . . . You do not seem to recognize 

He spoke in a very low, but penetrating voice. 
And Sekinai was astonished to find before him the 
same sinister, handsome face of which he had seen, 
and swallowed, the apparition in a cup of tea. 
It was smiling now, as the phantom had smiled ; 
but the steady gaze of the eyes, above the smiling 
lips, was at once a challenge and an insult. 

" No, I do not recognize you," returned Sekinai, 
angry but cool ; — " and perhaps you will now be 
good enough to inform me how you obtained 
admission to this house ? " 

[In feudal times the residence of a lord was 
strictly guarded at all hours ; and no one could enter 
unannounced, except through some unpardonable 
negligence on the part of the armed watch.J 

" Ah, you do not recognize me ! " exclaimed the 
visitor, in a tone of irony, drawing a little nearer 
as he spoke. "No, you do not recognize me! 
Yet you took upon yourself this morning to do me 
a deadly injury ! . . ." 

Sekinai instantly seized the tanfo^ at his girdle, 

^ The shorter of the two swords carried by samurai. The longer sword was 
called katana. 


and made a fierce thrust at the throat of the man. 
But the blade seemed to touch no substance. 
Simultaneously and soundlessly the intruder leaped 
sideward to the chamber-wall, and through it / . . . 
The wall showed no trace of his exit. He had 
traversed it only as the light of a candle passes 
through lantern-paper. 

When Sekinai made report of the incident, his 
recital astonished and puzzled the retainers. No 
stranger had been seen either to enter or to leave 
the palace at the hour of the occurrence ; and no one 
in the service of the lord Nakagawa had ever heard 
of the name " Shikibu Heinai." 

On the following night Sekinai was off duty, and 
remained at home with his parents. At a rather 
late hour he was informed that some strangers had 
called at the house, and desired to speak with him 
for a moment. Taking his sword, he went to the 
entrance, and there found three armed men, — 
apparently retainers, — waiting in front of the door- 
step. The three bowed respectfully to Sekinai ; 
and one of them said : — 



" Our names are Matsuoka Bung5, Tsuchibashi 
Bungo, and Okamura Heiroku. We are retainers 
of the noble Shikibu Heinai. When our master 
last night deigned to pay you a visit, you struck 

him with a 
was much 
been obliged 
hot springs, 
wound is now 
But on the 
of the coming 
return ; and 
fitly repay 
injury done 
hear more. 

sword. He 
hurt, and has 
to go to the 
where his 
being treated, 
sixteenth day 
month he will 
he will then 
you for the 
him. . . ." . 
waiting to 
Sekinai leaped 
out, sword in hand, and slashed right and left, at 
the strangers. But the three men sprang to the 
wall of the adjoining building, and flitted up the 
wall like shadows, and . . . 




Here the old narrative breaks off; the rest of 
the story existed only in some brain that has been 
dust for a century. 

I am able to imagine several possible endings ; 
but none of them would satisfy an Occidental 
imagination. I prefer to let the reader attempt to 
decide for himself the probable consequence of 
swallowing a Soul, 

Common Sense 

Common Sense 

ONCE there lived upon the mountain called 
Atagoyama, near Kyoto, a certain learned 
priest who devoted all his time to medi- 
tation and the study of the sacred books. The 
little temple in which he dwelt was far from any 
village ; and he could not, in such a solitude, have 
obtained without help the common necessaries of 
life. But several devout country people regularly 
contributed to his maintenance, bringing him each 
month supplies of vegetables and of rice. 

Among these good folk there was a certain 
hunter, who sometimes visited the mountain in 
search of game. One day, when this hunter had 
brought a bag of rice to the temple, the priest said 
to him : — 

" Friend, I must tell you that wonderful things 
have happened here since the last time I saw you. 
I do not certainly know why such things should 
have happened in my unworthy presence. But you 



are aware that I have been meditating, and reciting 
the sutras daily, for many years ; and it is possible 
that what has been vouchsafed me is due to the 
merit obtained through these religious exercises. 
I am not sure of this. But I am sure that Fugen 
Bosatsu ^ comes nightly to this temple, riding upon 
his elephant. . . . Stay here with me this night, 
friend ; then you will be able to see and to worship 
the Buddha." 

" To witness so holy a vision," the hunter 
replied, " were a privilege indeed ! Most gladly 
I shall stay, and worship with you." 

So the hunter remained at the temple. But 
while the priest was engaged in his religious exer- 
cises, the hunter began to think about the prom- 
ised miracle, and to doubt whether such a thing 
could be. And the more he thought, the more he 
doubted. There was a little boy in the temple, — 
an acolyte, — and the hunter found an opportunity 
to question the boy. 

" The priest told me," said the hunter, " that 
Fugen Bosatsu comes to this temple every night. 
Have you also seen Fugen Bosatsu ? " 

^ Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. 


" Six times, already," the acolyte replied, " I have 
seen and reverently worshipped Fugen Bosatsu." 

This declaration only served to increase the 
hunter's suspicions, though he did not in the 
least doubt the truthfulness of the boy. He 
reflected, however, that he would probably be able 
to see whatever the boy had seen ; and he waited 
with eagerness for the hour of the promised 

Shortly before midnight the priest announced 
that it was time to prepare for the coming of Fugen 
Bosatsu. The doors of the little temple were 
thrown open ; and the priest knelt down at the 
threshold, with his face to the east. The acolyte 
knelt at his left hand, and the hunter respectfully 
placed himself behind the priest. 

It was the night of the twentieth of the ninth 
month, — a dreary, dark, and very windy night; 
and the three waited a long time for the coming of 
Fugen Bosatsu. But at last a point of white light 
appeared, like a star, in the direction of the east ; 
and this light approached quickly, — growing larger 
and larger as it came, and illuminating all the slope 
of the mountain. Presently the light took shape 


— the shape of a being divine, riding upon a 
snow-white elephant with six tusks. And, in 
another moment, the elephant with its shining rider 
arrived before the temple, and there stood towering, 
like a mountain of moonlight, — wonderful and 

Then the priest and the boy, prostrating them- 
selves, began with exceeding fervour to repeat the 
holy invocation to Fugen Bosatsu. But suddenly 
the hunter rose up behind them, bow in hand ; 
and, bending his bow to the full, he sent a long 
arrow whizzing straight at the luminous Buddha, 
into whose breast it sank up to the very feathers. 

Immediately, with a sound like a thunder-clap, 
the white light vanished, and the vision disap- 
peared. Before the temple there was nothing but 
windy darkness. 

" O miserable man ! " cried out the priest, with 
tears of shame and despair, " O most wretched 
and wicked man ! what have you done ? — what 
have you done ? " 

But the hunter received the reproaches of the 
priest without any sign of compunction or of 
anger. Then he said, very gently : — 

" Reverend sir, please try to calm yourself, and 


listen to me. You thought that you were able 
to see Fugen Bosatsu because of some merit ob- 
tained through your constant meditations and 
your recitation of the sutras. But if that had 
been the case, the Buddha would have appeared 
to you only — not to me, nor even to the boy. 
I am an ignorant hunter, and my occupation is 
to kill ; — and the taking of life is hateful to the 
Buddhas. How then should I be able to see 
Fugen Bosatsu ? I have been taught that the 
Buddhas are everywhere about us, and that we 
remain unable to see them because of our igno- 
rance and our imperfections. You — being a 
learned priest of pure life — might indeed acquire 
such enlightenment as would enable you to see 
the Buddhas ; but how should a man who kills 
animals for his livelihood find the power to see 
the divine ? Both I and this little boy could see 
all that you saw. And let me now assure you, 
reverend sir, that what you saw was not Fugen 
Bosatsu, but a goblinry intended to deceive you 
— perhaps even to destroy you. I beg that you 
will try to control your feelings until daybreak. 
Then I will prove to you the truth of what I 
have said." 



At sunrise the hunter and the priest examined 
the spot where the vision had been standing, and 
they discovered a thin trail of blood. And after 
having followed this trail to a hollow some hun- 
dred paces away, they came upon the body of a 
great badger, transfixed by the hunter's arrow. 

The priest, although a learned and pious per- 
son, had easily been deceived by a badger. But 

an ignorant 
strong com- 
and by moth- 
he was able 
detect and to 
dangerous il- 

the hunter, 
and irrelig- 
gifted with 
mon sense ; 
er-wit alone 
at once to 
destroy a 




FORMERLY, in the quarter of Reiganjima, 
in Yedo, there was a great porcelain shop 
called the Setomonodana, kept by a rich 
man named Kihei. Kihei had in his employ, for 
many years, a head clerk named Rokubei. Under 
Rokubei's care the business prospered ; — and at 
last it grew so large that Rokubei found himself 
unable to manage it without help. He therefore 
asked and obtained permission to hire an experi- 
enced assistant ; and he then engaged one of his 
own nephews, — a young man about twenty-two 
years old, who had learned the porcelain trade in 

The nephew proved a very capable assistant, 
— shrewder in business than his experienced 
uncle. His enterprise extended the trade of the 

1 Literally, "living spirit," — that is to say, the ghost of a person still alive. 
An iiiryo may detach itself from the body under the influence of anger, and proceed 
to haunt and torment the individual by whom the anger was caused. 



house, and Kihei was greatly pleased. But about 
seven months after his engagement, the young 
man became very ill, and seemed likely to die. 
The best physicians in Yedo were summoned to 
attend him ; but none of them could understand 
the nature of his sickness. They prescribed no 
medicine, and expressed the opinion that such a 
sickness could only have been caused by some 
secret grief. 

Rokubei imagined that it might be a case of 
lovesickness. He therefore said to his nephew : — 

" I have been thinking that, as you are still very 
young, you might have formed some secret attach- 
ment which is making you unhappy, — perhaps 
even making you ill. If this be the truth, you 
certainly ought to tell me all about your troubles. 
Here I stand to you in the place of a father, 
as you are far away from your parents ; and if 
you have any anxiety or sorrow, I am ready to 
do for you whatever a father should do. If 
money can help you, do not be ashamed to tell 
me, even though the amount be large. I 
think that I could assist you ; and I am sure 
that Kihei would be glad to do anything to make 
you happy and well." 


The sick youth appeared to be embarrassed by 
these kindly assurances ; and for some little time 
he remained silent. At last he answered : — 

" Never in this world can I forget those gener- 
ous words. But I have no secret attachment — 
no longing for any woman. This sickness of 
mine is not a sickness that doctors can cure ; and 
money could not help me in the least. The 
truth is, that I have been so persecuted in this 
house that I scarcely care to live. Everywhere 
— by day and by night, whether in the shop or 
in my room, whether alone or in company — I 
have been unceasingly followed and tormented by 
the Shadow of a woman. And it is long, long 
since I have been able to get even one night's rest. 
For so soon as I close my eyes, the Shadow of 
the woman takes me by the throat and strives to 
strangle me. So I cannot sleep. . . ." 

" And why did you not tell me this before ? " 
asked Rokubei. 

" Because I thought," the nephew answered, 
" that it would be of no use to tell you. The 
Shadow is not the ghost of a dead person. It 
is made by the hatred of a living person — a per- 
son whom you very well know." 


" What person ? " questioned Rokubei, in great 

" The mistress of this house," whispered the 
youth, — " the wife of Kihei Sama. . . . She 
wishes to kill me." 

Rokubei was bewildered by this confession. 
He doubted nothing of what his nephew had 
said ; but he could not imagine a reason for the 
haunting. An ikiryb might be caused by disap- 
pointed love, or by violent hate, — without the 
knowledge of the person from whom it had ema- 
nated. To suppose any love in this case was 
impossible ; — the wife of Kihei was considerably 
more than fifty years of age. But, on the other 
hand, what could the young clerk have done to 
provoke hatred, — a hatred capable of producing 
an ikiryo ? He had been irreproachably well con- 
ducted, unfailingly courteous, and earnestly devoted 
to his duties. The mystery troubled Rokubei ; but, 
after careful reflection, he decided to tell everything 
to Kihei, and to request an investigation. 

1 An ikiryo is seen only by the person haunted. — For another illustration of 
this curious belief, sec the paper entitled " The Stone Buddha" in my Out of the 
East, p. 171. 


Kihei was astounded ; but in the time of forty 
years he had never had the least reason to doubt 
the word of Rokubei. He therefore summoned 
his wife at once, and carefully questioned her, 
telling her, at the same time, what the sick clerk 
had said. At first she turned pale, and wept ; but, 
after some hesitation, she answered frankly: — 

" I suppose that what the new clerk has said 
about the ikiryo is true, — though I really tried 
never to betray, by word or look, the dislike 
which I could not help feeling for him. You 
know that he is very skilful in commerce, — very 
shrewd in everything that he does. And you 
have given him much authority in this house — 
power over the apprentices and the servants. 
But our only son, who should inherit this busi- 
ness, is very simple-hearted and easily deceived ; 
and I have long been thinking that your clever 
new clerk might so delude our boy as to get 
possession of all this property. Indeed, I am 
certain that your clerk could at any time, without 
the least difficulty, and without the least risk to 
himself, ruin our business and ruin our son. 
And with this certainty in my mind, I cannot 
help fearing and hating the man. I have often 


and often wished that he were dead ; I have even 
wished that it were in my own power to kill him. 
. . . Yes, I know that it is wrong to hate any 
one in such a way ; but I could not check the 
feeling. Night and day I have been wishing evil 
to that clerk. So I cannot doubt that he has really 
seen the thing of which he spoke to Rokubei." 

" How absurd of you," exclaimed Kihei, " to 
torment yourself thus ! Up to the present time 
that clerk has done no single thing for which he 
could be blamed ; and you have caused him to 
suffer cruelly. . . . Now if I should send him 
away, with his uncle, to another town, to establish 
a branch business, could you not endeavour to 
think more kindly of him ? " 

" If I do not see his face or hear his voice," 
the wife answered, — " if you will only send him 
away from this house, — then I think that I shall 
be able to conquer my hatred of him." 

" Try to do so," said Kihei ; — " for, if you con- 
tinue to hate him as you have been hating him, 
he will certainly die, and you will then be guilty 
of having caused the death of a man who has 
done us nothing but good. He has been, in 
every way, a most excellent servant." 



Then Kihei quickly made arrangements for 
the establishment of a branch house in another 
city ; and he sent Rokubei there with the clerk, 
to take charge. And thereafter the ikiryo ceased 
to torment the young man, who soon recovered 
his health. 




ON the death of Nomoto Yajiyemon, a 
daikwan^ in the province of Echizen, 
his clerks entered into a conspiracy to 
defraud the family of their late master. Under 
pretext of paying some of the daikwan's debts, 
they took possession of all the money, valuables, 
and furniture in his house ; and they furthermore 
prepared a false report to make it appear that he 
had unlawfully contracted obligations exceeding 
the worth of his estate. This false report they 
sent to the Saisho,^ and the Saish5 thereupon 
issued a decree banishing the widow and the 
children of Nomoto from the province of Echi- 
zen. For in those times the family of a daikwan 

1 The term sbiryb, " dead ghost," — that is to say, the ghost of a dead person, 
— is used in contradistinction to the term ikiryo, signifying the apparidon of a liWng 
person. Yurei is a more generic name for ghosts of any sort. 

2 A daikwan was a district governor under the direct control of the Shogunate. 
His functions were both civil and judicial. 

^ The Saisbo was a high official of the Shogunate, with dudes corresponding to 
those of a prime minister. 



were held in part responsible, even after his death, 
for any malfeasance proved against him. 

But at the moment when the order of banish- 
ment was officially announced to the widow of 
Nomoto, a strange thing happened to a maid- 
servant in the house. She was seized with con- 
vulsions and shudderings, like a person possessed ; 
and when the convulsions passed, she rose up, 
and cried out to the officers of the Saisho, and 
to the clerks of her late master : — 

" Now listen to me ! It is not a girl who is 
speaking to you; it is I, — Yajiyemon, Nomoto 
Yajiyemon, — returned to you from the dead. 
In grief and great anger do I return — grief and 
anger caused me by those in whom I vainly put 
my trust ! . . . O you infamous and ungrateful 
clerks ! how could you so forget the favours be- 
stowed upon you, as thus to ruin my property, 
and to disgrace my name ? . . . Here, now, in 
my presence, let the accounts of my office and 
of my house be made ; and let a servant be sent 
for the books of the Metsuke,^ so that the esti- 
mates may be compared ! " 

^ The Metsuke was a government official, charged with the duty of keeping 
watch over the conduct of local governors or district judges, and of inspecting their 


As the maid uttered these words, all present 
were filled with astonishment ; for her voice and her 
manner were the voice and the manner of Nomoto 
Yajiyemon. The guilty clerks turned pale. But 
the representatives of the Saisho at once com- 
manded that the desire expressed by the girl 
should be fully granted. All the account-books 
of the office were promptly placed before her, — 
and the books of the Metsuke were brought in ; 
and she began the reckoning. Without making 
a single error, she went through all the ac- 
counts, writing down the totals and correcting every 
false entry. And her writing, as she wrote, was 
seen to be the very writing of Nomoto Yajiye- 

Now this reexamination of the accounts not 
only proved that there had been no indebtedness, 
but also showed that there had been a surplus in 
the office treasury at the time of the daikwan's 
death. Thus the villany of the clerks became 

And when all the accounts had been made up, 
the girl said, speaking in the very voice of Nomoto 
Yajiyemon : — 

" Now everything is finished ; and I can do 



nothing further in the matter. So I shall go 
back to the place from which I came." 

Then she lay down, and instantly fell asleep ; 
and she slept like a dead person during two 
days and two nights. [For great weariness 
and deep sleep fall upon the possessed, when the 

from them.] 
again awoke, 
her manner 
and the man- 
young girl ; 
that time, nor 
after, could 
ber what had 
while she was 
the ghost or 

spirit passes 
When she 
her voice and 
were the voice 
n e r of a 
and neither at 
at any time 
she remem- 
possessed by 
Nomoto Ya- 

A report of this event was promptly sent to 
the Saisho ; and the Saisho, in consequence, not 
only revoked the order of banishment, but made 
large gifts to the family of the daikwan. Later 
on, various posthumous honours were conferred 
upon Nomoto Yajiyemon ; and for many subse- 


quent years his house was favoured by the Gov- 
ernment, so that it prospered greatly. But the 
clerks received the punishment which they de- 


The Story of O-Kame 

The Story of O-Kame 

O-KAME, daughter of the rich Gonyemon 
of Nagoshi, in the province of Tosa, 
was very fond of her husband, Hachiye- 
mon. She was twenty-two, and Hachiyemon 
twenty-five. She was so fond of him that people 
imagined her to be jealous. But he never gave 
her the least cause for jealousy ; and it is certain 
that no single unkind word was ever spoken 
between them. 

Unfortunately the health of O-Kame was feeble. 
Within less than two years after her marriage 
she was attacked by a disease, then prevalent in 
Tosa, and the best doctors were not able to cure 
her. Persons seized by this malady could not 
eat or drink ; they remained constantly drowsy 
and languid, and troubled by strange fancies. 
And, in spite of constant care, O-Kame grew 
weaker and weaker, day by day, until it became 
evident, even to herself, that she was going to die. 



Then she called her husband, and said to 
him : — 

" I cannot tell you how good you have been 
to me during this miserable sickness of mine. 
Surely no one could have been more kind. But 
that only makes it all the harder for me to leave 
you now. . . . Think ! I am not yet even 
twenty-five, — and I have the best husband in all 
this world, — and yet I must die ! . . . Oh, no, 
no ! it is useless to talk to me about hope ; the 
best Chinese doctors could do nothing for me. I 
did think to live a few months longer; but when 
I saw my face this morning in the mirror, I knew 
that I must die to-day, — yes, this very day. 
And there is something that I want to beg you 
to do for me — if you wish me to die quite 

" Only tell me what it is," Hachiyemon an- 
swered ; " and if it be in my power to do, I shall 
be more than glad to do it." 

"No, no — you will not be glad to do it," she 
returned: "you are still so young! It is diffi- 
cult — very, very difficult — even to ask you to 
do such a thing ; yet the wish for it is like a fire 
burning in my breast. I must speak it before 


I die. . . . My dear, you know that sooner 
or later, after I am dead, they will want you to 
take another wife. Will you promise me — can 
you promise me — not to marry again? ..." 

" Only that ! " Hachiyemon exclaimed. " Why, 
if that be all that you wanted to ask for, your 
wish is very easily granted. With all my heart 
I promise you that no one shall ever take your 

" A a ! urhhiya ! " cried O-Kame, half-rising 
from her couch ; — " oh, how happy you have made 

And she fell back dead. 

Now the health of Hachiyemon appeared to 
fail after the death of O-Kame. At first the 
change in his aspect was attributed to natural 
grief, and the villagers only said, " How fond of 
her he must have been ! " But, as the months 
went by, he grew paler and weaker, until at last 
he became so thin and wan that he looked more 
like a ghost than a man. Then people began 
to suspect that sorrow alone could not explain 
this sudden decline of a man so young. The 
doctors said that Hachiyemon was not suffering 


from any known form of disease : they could 
not account for his condition ; but they suggested 
that it might have been caused by some very 
unusual trouble of mind. Hachiyemon's parents 
questioned him in vain ; — he had no cause for 
sorrow, he said, other than what they already 
knew. They counselled him to remarry ; but 
he protested that nothing could ever induce him 
to break his promise to the dead. 

Thereafter Hachiyemon continued to grow visi- 
bly weaker, day by day ; and his family despaired 
of his life. But one day his mother, who felt sure 
that he had been concealing something from her, 
adjured him so earnestly to tell her the real cause 
of his decline, and wept so bitterly before him, 
that he was not able to resist her entreaties. 

" Mother," he said, " it is very difficult to speak 
about this matter, either to you or to any one ; 
and, perhaps, when I have told you everything, 
you will not be able to believe me. But the truth 
is that O-Kame can find no rest in the other world, 
and that the Buddhist services repeated for her 
have been said in vain. Perhaps she will never 
be able to rest unless I go with her on the long 


black journey. For every night she returns, and 
lies down by my side. Every night, since the day 
of her funeral, she has come back. And some- 
times I doubt if she be really dead ; for she looks 
and acts just as when she lived, — except that she 
talks to me only in whispers. And she always 
bids me tell no one that she comes. It may be 
that she wants me to die ; and I should not care 
to live for my own sake only. But it is true, as 
you have said, that my body really belongs to my 
parents, and that I owe to them the first duty. 
So now, mother, I tell you the whole truth. . . . 
Yes : every night she comes, just as I am about 
to sleep ; and she remains until dawn. As soon 
as she hears the temple-bell, she goes away." 

When the mother of Hachiyemon had heard 
these things, she was greatly alarmed ; and, hast- 
ening at once to the parish-temple, she told the 
priest all that her son had confessed, and begged 
for ghostly help. The priest, who was a man of 
great age and experience, listened without surprise 
to the recital, and then said to her : — 

" It is not the first time that I have known 
such a thing to happen ; and I think that I shall 


be able to save your son. But he is really in 
great danger. I have seen the shadow of death 
upon his face ; and, if O-Kame return but once 
again, he will never behold another sunrise. 
Whatever can be done for him must be done 
quickly. Say nothing of the matter to your son ; 
but assemble the members of both families as soon 
as possible, and tell them to come to the temple 
without delay. For your son's sake it will be 
necessary to open the grave of O-Kame." 

So the relatives assembled at the temple ; and 
when the priest had obtained their consent to the 
opening of the sepulchre, he led the way to the 
cemetery. Then, under his direction, the tomb- 
stone of O-Kame was shifted, the grave opened, 
and the coffin raised. And when the coffin-lid 
had been removed, all present were startled ; for 
O-Kame sat before them with a smile upon her 
face, seeming as comely as before the time of her 
sickness ; and there was not any sign of death 
upon her. But when the priest told his assistants 
to lift the dead woman out of the coffin, the 
astonishment changed to fear ; for the corpse was 
blood-warm to the touch, and still flexible as in 



life, notwithstanding the squatting posture in which 
it had remained so long.^ 

It was borne to the mortuary chapel ; and there 
the priest, with a writing-brush, traced upon the 
brow and breast and limbs of the body the San- 

scrit characters [Bonji) of certain holy talismanic 
words. And he performed a Segaki-service for 
the spirit of O-Kame, before suffering her corpse 
to be restored to the ground. 

^ The Japanese dead are placed in a sitting posture in the coffin, — which 
is almost square in form. 


She never again visited her husband ; and 
Hachiyemon gradually recovered his health and 
strength. But whether he always kept his prom- 
ise, the Japanese story-teller does not say. 

Story of a Fly 

Story of a Fly 

ABOUT two hundred years ago, there lived 
in Kyoto a merchant named Kazariya 
Kyubei. His shop was in the street called 
Teramachidori, a little south of the Shimabara 
thoroughfare. He had a maid-servant named 
Tama, — a native of the province of Wakasa. 

Tama was kindly treated by Kyiiibei and his 
wife, and appeared to be sincerely attached to 
them. But she never cared to dress nicely, like 
other girls ; and whenever she had a holiday she 
would go out in her working-dress, notwithstand- 
ing that she had been given several pretty robes. 
After she had been in the service of Kyiabei for 
about five years, he one day asked her why she 
never took any pains to look neat. 

Tama blushed at the reproach implied by this 
question, and answered respectfully : — 

"When my parents died, I was a very little 
girl ; and, as they had no other child, it became 



my duty to have the Buddhist services performed 
on their behalf. At that time I could not obtain 
the means to do so ; but I resolved to have their 
ihai [mortuary tablets] placed in the temple called 
Jorakuji, and to have the rites performed, so 
soon as I could earn the money required. And 
in order to fulfil this resolve I have tried to be 
saving of my money and my clothes ; — perhaps 
I have been too saving, as you have found me 
negligent^ of my person. But I have already been 
able to put by about one hundred momm'e of silver 
for the purpose which I have mentioned ; and 
hereafter I will try to appear before you looking 
neat. So I beg that you will kindly excuse my 
past negligence and rudeness." 

Kyubei was touched by this simple confession ; 
and he spoke to the girl kindly, — assuring her 
that she might consider herself at liberty thence- 
forth to dress as she pleased, and commending 
her filial piety. 

Soon after this conversation, the maid Tama 
was able to have the tablets of her parents placed 
in the temple Jorakuji, and to have the appropri- 
ate services performed. Of the money which she 


had saved she thus expended seventy momme; and 
the remaining thirty momme she asked her mistress 
to keep for her. 

But early in the following winter Tama was 
suddenly taken ill ; and after a brief sickness she 
died, on the eleventh day of the first month of 
the fifteenth year of Genroku [1702]. Kyubei 
and his wife were much grieved by her death. 

Now, about ten days later, a very large fly came 
into the house, and began to fly round and round 
the head of Kyubei. This surprised Kyubei, 
because no flies of any kind appear, as a rule, 
during the Period of Greatest Cold, and the larger 
kinds of flies are seldom seen except in the warm 
season. The fly annoyed Kyubei so persistently 
that he took the trouble to catch it, and put it 
out of the house, — being careful the while to 
injure it in no way ; for he was a devout Buddhist. 
It soon came back again, and was again caught 
and thrown out ; but it entered a third time. 
Kyubei's wife thought this a strange thing. " I 
wonder," she said, " if it is Tama." [For the 
dead — particularly those who pass to the state 
of Gaki — sometimes return in the form of in- 


sects.] Kyubei laughed, and made answer, " Per- 
haps we can find out by marking it." He caught 
the fly, and slightly nicked the tips of its wings 
with a pair of scissors, — after which he carried it to 
a considerable distance from the house and let it go. 

Next day it returned. Kyiibei still doubted 
whether its return had any ghostly significance. 
He caught it again, painted its wings and body 
with bent (rouge), carried it away from the house 
to a much greater distance than before, and set 
it free. But, two days later, it came back, all red ; 
and Kyiibei ceased to doubt. 

" I think it is Tama," he said. " She wants 
something ; — but what does she want ? " 

The wife responded : — 

" I have still thirty momme of her savings. Per- 
haps she wants us to pay that money to the temple, 
for a Buddhist service on behalf of her spirit. Tama 
was always very anxious about her next birth." 

As she spoke, the fly fell from the paper win- 
dow on which it had been resting. Kyiibei picked 
it up, and found that it was dead. 

Thereupon the husband and wife resolved to go 
to the temple at once, and to pay the girl's money 



to the priests. They put the body of the fly into 
a little box, and took it along with them. 

Jiku Shonin, the chief priest of the temple, on 
hearing the story of the fly, decided that Kyubei 
and his wife had acted rightly in the matter. Then 
Jiku Shonin performed a Segaki service on behalf 

of the spirit 
and over the 
fly were re- 
rolls of the 
And the box 
the body of 
buried in the 
the temple ; 
place a sotoba 

T- of Tama; 
body of the 
cited the eight 
sutra Myoien. 
containi ng 
the fly was 
grounds of 
and above the 
was set up, 

Story of a Pheasant 

Story of a Pheasant 

IN the Toyama district of the province of 
Bishu, there formerly lived a young farmer 
and his wife. Their farm was situated in a 
lonely place, among the hills. 

One night the wife dreamed that her father-in- 
law, who had died some years before, came to her 
and said, " T'o-morrow I shall be in great danger : 
try to save me if you can!" In the morning she 
told this to her husband ; and they talked about 
the dream. Both imagined that the dead man 
wanted something; but neither could imagine 
what the words of the vision signified. 

After breakfast, the husband went to the fields ; 
but the wife remained at her loom. Presently 
she was startled by a great shouting outside. She 
went to the door, and saw the Jit5 ^ of the district, 
with a hunting party, approaching the farm. While 
she stood watching them, a pheasant ran by her 

^The lord of the district, who acted both as governor and magistrate. 



into the house ; and she suddenly remembered her 
dream. " Perhaps it is my father-in-law," she 
thought to herself; — "I must try to save it ! " 
Then, hurrying in after the bird, — a fine male 
pheasant, — she caught it without any difficulty, 
put it into the empty rice-pot, and covered the 
pot with the lid. 

A moment later some of the Jito's followers 
entered, and asked her whether she had seen a 
pheasant. She answered boldly that she had not; 
but one of the hunters declared that he had seen 
the bird run into the house. So the party searched 
for it, peeping into every nook and corner ; but 
nobody thought of looking into the rice-pot. 
After looking everywhere else to no purpose, the 
men decided that the bird must have escaped 
through some hole ; and they went away. 

When the farmer came home his wife told him 
about the pheasant, which she had left in the rice- 
pot, so that he might see it. " When I caught 
it," she said, "it did not struggle in the least; 
and it remained very quiet in the pot. I really 
think that it is father-in-law." The farmer went 
to the pot, lifted the lid, and took out the bird. 


It remained still in his hands, as if tame, and 
looked at him as if accustomed to his presence. 
One of its eyes was blind. " Father was blind 
of one eye," the farmer said, — " the right eye ; 
and the right eye of this bird is blind. Really, I 
think it is father. See ! it looks at us just as 
father used to do ! . . . Poor father must have 
thought to himself, ' Now that I am a birdy better 
to give my body to my children for food than to let 
the hunters have it.' . . . And that explains your 
dream of last night," he added, — turning to his 
wife with an evil smile as he wrung the pheasant's 

At the sight of that brutal act, the woman 
screamed, and cried out : — 

" Oh, you wicked man ! Oh, you devil ! Only 
a man with the heart of a devil could do what 
you have done ! . . . And I would rather die 
than continue to be the wife of such a man ! " 

And she sprang to the door, without waiting 
even to put on her sandals. He caught her 
sleeve as she leaped ; but she broke away from 
him, and ran out, sobbing as she ran. And 
she ceased not to run, barefooted, till she reached 
the town, when she hastened directly to the resi- 



dence of the Jit5. Then, with many tears, she 
told the Jit5 everything : her dream of the night 
before the hunting, and how she had hidden the 
pheasant in order to save it, and how her hus- 
band had mocked her, and had killed it. 

The Jito 
kindly, and 
that she 
well cared 
seize her hus- 

Next day 
was brought 
ment ; and, 
been made 
the truth 
the killing of 

sentence was pronounced 
him : — 

spoke to her 
gave orders 
should be 
for ; but he 
his officers to 

the farmer 
up for judg- 
after he had 
to confess 
the pheasant. 

The Jit5 said to 

" Only a person of evil heart could have acted 
as you have acted ; and the presence of so per- 
verse a being is a misfortune to the community 
in which he happens to reside. The people 
under Our jurisdiction are people who respect 


the sentiment of filial piety ; and among them 
you cannot be suffered to live." 

So the farmer was banished from the district, 
and forbidden ever to return to it on pain of 
death. But to the woman the Jit5 made a dona- 
tion of land ; and at a later time he caused her 
to be provided with a good husband. 

The Story of Chugoro 

The Story of Chugoro 

ALONG time ago there lived, in the Koishl- 
kawa quarter of Yedo, a hatamoto named 
Suzuki, whose yashiki was situated on the 
bank of the Yedogawa, not far from the bridge 
called Naka-no-hashi. And among the retainers 
of this Suzuki there was an ashigaru ^ named Chu- 
goro. Chugor5 was a handsome lad, very amiable 
and clever, and much liked by his comrades. 

For several years Chugor5 remained in the ser- 
vice of Suzuki, conducting himself so well that no 
fault was found with him. But at last the other 
ashigaru discovered that Chugoro was in the habit 
of leaving the yashiki every night, by way of the 
garden, and staying out until a little before dawn. 
At first they said nothing to him about this strange 
behaviour ; for his absences did not interfere with 
any regular duty, and were supposed to be caused 

^ The aibigaru were the lowest class of retainers in military service. 


by some love-affair. But after a time he began 
to look pale and weak ; and his comrades, sus- 
pecting some serious folly, decided to interfere. 
Therefore, one evening, just as he was about to 
steal away from the house, an elderly retainer called 
him aside, and said : — 

" Chugoro, my lad, we know that you go out 
every night and stay away until early morning; 
and we have observed that you are looking un- 
well. We fear that you are keeping bad company, 
and injuring your health. And unless you can 
give a good reason for your conduct, we shall 
think that it is our duty to report this matter to 
the Chief Officer. In any case, since we are your 
comrades and friends, it is but right that we should 
know why you go out at night, contrary to the 
custom of this house." 

Chugoro appeared to be very much embarrassed 
and alarmed by these words. But after a short 
silence he passed into the garden, followed by his 
comrade. When the two found themselves well 
out of hearing of the rest, Chugor5 stopped, and 
said : — 

" I will now tell you everything ; but I must 
entreat you to keep my secret. If you repeat 


what I tell you, some great misfortune may befall 

"It was In the early part of last spring — about 
five months ago — that I first began to go out 
at night, on account of a love-affair. One even- 
ing, when I was returning to the yashiki after 
a visit to my parents, I saw a woman standing 
by the riverside, not far from the main gateway. 
She was dressed like a person of high rank ; and 
I thought it strange that a woman so finely dressed 
should be standing there alone at such an hour. 
But I did not think that I had any right to ques- 
tion her; and I was about to pass her by, with- 
out speaking, when she stepped forward and 
pulled me by the sleeve. Then I saw that she 
was very young and handsome. * Will you not 
walk with me as far as the bridge ? ' she said ; 
* I have something to tell you.' Her voice was 
very soft and pleasant ; and she smiled as she 
spoke ; and her smile was hard to resist. So I 
walked with her toward the bridge ; and on the 
way she told me that she had often seen me 
going in and out of the yashiki, and had taken 
a fancy to me. * I wish to have you for my hus- 
band,' she said ; — 'if you can like me, we shall 


be able to make each other very happy.' I did 
not know how to answer her ; but I thought her 
very charming. As we neared the bridge, she 
pulled my sleeve again, and led me down the 
bank to the very edge of the river. * Come in 
with me,' she whispered, and pulled me toward 
the water. It is deep there, as you know ; and 
I became all at once afraid of her, and tried to 
turn back. She smiled, and caught me by the 
wrist, and said, ^ Oh, you must never be afraid 
with me ! ' And, somehow, at the touch of her 
hand, I became more helpless than a child. I 
felt like a person in a dream who tries to run, 
and cannot move hand or foot. Into the deep 
water she stepped, and drew me with her; and I 
neither saw nor heard nor felt anything more 
until I found myself walking beside her through 
what seemed to be a great palace, full of light. 
I was neither wet nor cold : everything around 
me was dry and warm and beautiful. I could 
not understand where I was, nor how I had come 
there. The woman led me by the hand : we 
passed through room after room, — through ever 
so many rooms, all empty, but very fine, — until 
we entered into a guest-room of a thousand mats. 


Before a great alcove, at the farther end, lights 
were burning, and cushions laid as for a feast ; 
but I saw no guests. She led me to the place 
of honour, by the alcove, and seated herself in 
front of me, and said : * This is my home : do 
you think that you could be happy with me here?' 
As she asked the question she smiled ; and I 
thought that her smile was more beautiful than 
anything else in the world ; and out of my heart 
I answered, *Yes. . . .' In the same moment I 
remembered the story of Urashima ; and I im- 
agined that she might be the daughter of a god ; 
but I feared to ask her any questions. . . . Pres- 
ently maid-servants came in, bearing rice-wine and 
many dishes, which they set before us. Then 
she who sat before me said : ' To-night shall 
be our bridal night, because you like me ; and 
this is our wedding-feast.' We pledged ourselves 
to each other for the time of seven existences ; 
and after the banquet we were conducted to a 
bridal chamber, which had been prepared for us. 

"It was yet early in the morning when she 
awoke me, and said : * My dear one, you are now 
indeed my husband. But for reasons which I 
cannot tell you, and which you must not ask, 


it is necessary that our marriage remain secret. 
To keep you here until daybrealc would cost 
both of us our lives. Therefore do not, I beg 
of you, feel displeased because I must now send 
you back to the house of your lord. You can 
come to me to-night again, and every night here- 
after, at the same hour that we first met. Wait 
always for me by the bridge ; and you will not 
have to wait long. But remember, above all 
things, that our marriage must be a secret, and 
that, if you talk about it, we shall probably be 
separated forever.* 

" I promised to obey her in all things, — 
remembering the fate of Urashima, — and she 
conducted me through many rooms, all empty 
and beautiful, to the entrance. There she again 
took me by the wrist, and everything suddenly 
became dark, and I knew nothing more until I 
found myself standing alone on the river bank, 
close to the Naka-no-hashi. When I got back to 
the yashiki, the temple bells had not yet begun 
to ring. 

"In the evening I went again to the bridge, 
at the hour she had named, and I found her 
waiting for me. She took me with her, as before. 


into the deep water, and into the wonderful place 
where we had passed our bridal night. And 
every night, since then, I have met and parted 
from her in the same way. To-night she will 
certainly be waiting for me, and I would rather 
die than disappoint her : therefore I must go. . . . 
But let me again entreat you, my friend, never 

to speak to any one about what I have told 

_ »> 

The elder ashigaru was surprised and alarmed 
by this story. He felt that Chugord had told 
him the truth ; and the truth suggested unpleas- 
ant possibilities. Probably the whole experience 
was an illusion, and an illusion produced by some 
evil power for a malevolent end. Nevertheless, 
if really bewitched, the lad was rather to be pitied 
than blamed ; and any forcible interference would 
be likely to result in mischief. So the ashigaru 
answered kindly : — 

" I shall never speak of what you have told 
me — never, at least, while you remain alive and 
well. Go and meet the woman ; but — beware 
of her ! I fear that you are being deceived by 
some wicked spirit." 


Chugoro only smiled at the old man's warning, 
and hastened away. Several hours later he re- 
entered the yashiki, with a strangely dejected 
look. " Did you meet her ? " whispered his 
comrade. " No," replied Chugord ; " she was 
not there. For the first time, she was not there. 
I think that she will never meet me again. I 
did wrong to tell you ; — I was very foolish to 
break my promise. ..." The other vainly tried 
to console him. Chugoro lay down, and spoke 
no word more. He was trembling from head 
to foot, as if he had caught a chill. 

When the temple bells announced the hour 
of dawn, Chugor5 tried to get up, and fell back 
senseless. He was evidently sick, — deathly 
sick. A Chinese physician was summoned. 

" Why, the man has no blood ! " exclaimed 
the doctor, after a careful examination ; — " there 
is nothing but water in his veins ! It will be 
very difficult to save him. . . . What malefi- 
cence is this ? " 

Everything was done that could be done to 
save Chugoro's life — but in vain. He died as 



the sun went down. Then his comrade related 
the whole story. 

" Ah ! I might have suspected as much ! " ex- 
claimed the doctor. ... " No power could have 
saved him. He was not the first whom she 

" Who is she ? — or what is she ? " the ashi- 
garu asked, — "a Fox- Woman ? " 

" No ; she has been haunting this river from 
ancient time. She loves the blood of the 
young. . . ." 

" A Serpent-Woman ? — A Dragon- Woman ? " 


" No, no ! If you were to see her under that 
bridge by daylight, she would appear to you a 
very loathsome creature." 

" But what kind of a creature ? ** 

" Simply a Frog, — a great and ugly Frog ! " 

A Woman's Diary 

A Woman's Diary 

RECENTLY there was put into my hands a 
somewhat remarkable manuscript, — seven- 
teen long narrow sheets of soft paper, 
pierced with a silken string, and covered with fine 
Japanese characters. It was a kind of diary, con- 
taining the history of a woman's married life, 
recorded by herself. The writer was dead ; and the 
diary had been found in a small work-box {hari- 
bako) which had belonged to her. 

The friend who lent me the manuscript gave me 
leave to translate as much of it as I might think 
worth publishing. I have gladly availed myself 
of this unique opportunity to present in English 
the thoughts and feelings, joys and sorrows, of a 
simple woman of the people — just as she her- 
self recorded them in the frankest possible way, 
never dreaming that any foreign eye would read 
her humble and touching memoir. 

But out of respect to her gentle ghost, I have 



tried to use the manuscript in such a way only as 
could not cause her the least pain if she were 
yet in the body, and able to read me. Some 
parts I have omitted, because I thought them 
sacred. Also I have left out a few details relat- 
ing to customs or to local beliefs that the West- 
ern reader could scarcely understand, even with the 
aid of notes. And the names, of course, have 
been changed. Otherwise I have followed the 
text as closely as I could, — making no changes 
of phrase except when the Japanese original could 
not be adequately interpreted by a literal rendering. 

In addition to the facts stated or suggested in 
the diary itself, I could learn but very little of 
the writer's personal history. She was a woman 
of the poorest class ; and from her own narrative 
it appears that she remained unmarried until she 
was nearly thirty. A younger sister had been 
married several years previously ; and the diary 
does not explain this departure from custom. A 
small photograph found with the manuscript 
shows that its author never could have been 
called good-looking ; but the face has a certain 
pleasing expression of shy gentleness. Her hus- 


band was a kozukai^ employed in one of the 
great public offices, chiefly for night duty, at a 
salary of ten yen per month. In order to help 
him to meet the expenses of housekeeping, she 
made cigarettes for a tobacco dealer. 

The manuscript shows that she must have been 
at school for some years : she could write the 
kana very nicely, but she had not learned many 
Chinese characters, — so that her work resembles 
the work of a schoolgirl. But it is written with- 
out mistakes, and skilfully. The dialect is of 
Tokyo, — the common speech of the city peo- 
ple, — full of idiomatic expressions, but entirely 
free from coarseness. 

Some one might naturally ask why this poor 
woman, so much occupied with the constant 
struggle for mere existence, should have taken 
the pains to write down what she probably never 
intended to be read. I would remind such a 
questioner of the old Japanese teaching that lit- 
erary composition is the best medicine for sor- 

1 A iozuiai is a man-servant chiefly employed as doorkeeper and messenger. 
The term is rendered better by the French word concierge than by our English word 
" porter " ; but neither expression exactly meets the Japanese meaning. 


row ; and I would remind him also of the fact 
that, even among the poorest classes, poems are 
still composed upon all occasions of joy or pain. 
The latter part of the diary was written in lonely 
hours of illness ; and I suppose that she then 
wrote chiefly in order to keep her thoughts com- 
posed at a time when solitude had become dan- 
gerous for her. A little before her death, her 
mind gave way ; and these final pages probably 
represent the last brave struggle of the spirit 
against the hopeless weakness of the flesh. 

I found that the manuscript was inscribed, on 
the outside sheet, with the title, Mukashi-banashi : 
" A Story of Old Times." According to cir- 
cumstances, the word mukashi may signify either 
"long ago," in reference 4:o past centuries, or 
"old times," in reference to one's own past life. 
The latter is the obvious meaning in the present 


On the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the ninth 
month of the twenty-eighth year of Meiji [1895], the man 
of the opposite house came and asked : — 

" As for the eldest daughter of this family, is it agreeable 
that she be disposed of in marriage ? " 


Then the answer was given : — 

" Even though the matter were agreeable [to our wishes'] , 
no preparation for such an event has yet been made."^ 

The man of the opposite house said : — 

" But as no preparation is needed in this case, will you not 
honourably give her to the person for whom I speak ? He 
is said to be a very steady man ; and he is thirty-eight years 
of age. As I thought your eldest girl to be about twenty- 
six, I proposed her to him. ..." 

" No, — she is twenty-nine years old," was answered. 

" Ah ! . . . That being the case, I must again speak 
to the other party j and I shall honourably consult with you 
after I have seen him." 

So saying, the man went away. 

Next evening the man came again, — this time with the 
wife of Okada-Shi ^ \a friend of the family^ , — and said : — 

" The other party is satisfied ; — so, if you are willing, 
the match can be made." 

Father replied : — 

" As the two are, both of them, shichi-seki-kin [" seven- 

^ The reader must understand that " the man of the opposite house " is acting 
as nakodo, or match-maker, in the interest of a widower who wishes to remarry. 
By the statement, "no preparation has been made," the fether means that he is 
unable to provide for his daughter's marriage, and cannot furnish her with a bridal 
outfit, — clothing, household furniture, etc., — as required by custom. The reply 
that "no preparation is needed" signifies that the proposed husband is willing to 
take the girl without any marriage gifts. 

* Throughout this Ms., except in one instance, the more respectful form 
Sama never occurs after a masculine name, the popular form Sbi being used even 
after the names of kindred. 


red-metal"],^ they should have the same nature; — so I 
think that no harm can come of it." 

The match-maker asked : — 

"Then how would it be to arrange for the miai^ ["see- 
meeting "] to-morrow ? " 

Father said : — 

" I suppose that everything really depends upon the En 
[karma-relation formed in previous states of existence!, .... 
Well, then, I beg that you will honourably meet us to-mor- 
row evening at the house of Okada." 

Thus the betrothal promise was given on both sides. 

The person of the opposite house wanted me to go with 
him next evening to Okada's ; but I said that I wished to 
go with my mother only, as from the time of taking such 
a first step one could not either retreat or advance. 

When I went with mother to the house, we were wel- 
comed in with the words, *' Kochira e ! " Then [my 
future husband and I] greeted each other for the first 
time. But somehow I felt so much ashamed that I could 
not look at him. 

Then Okada-Shi said to Namiki-Shi [the proposed hus- 
band'^ : " Now that you have nobody to consult with at 
home, would it not be well for you to snatch your luck 
where you find it, as the proverb says, — *• Zen wa isog'e ' ? " 

The answer was made : — 

* The father has evidently been consulting a fortune-telling book, such as the 
San-ze-so, or a professional diviner. The allusion to the astrologically determined 
natures, or temperaments, of the pair could scarcely be otherwise explained. 

^ Miai is a term used to signify a meeting arranged in order to enable the parties 
affianced to sec each other before the wedding-day. 


" As for me, I am well satisfied ; but I do not know 
what the feeling may be on the other side." 

" If it be honourably deigned to take me as it is hon- 
ourably known that I am . . . " ^ I said. 

The match-maker said : — 

" The matter being so, what would be a good day for 
the wedding ? " 

[Namaki-Shi answered : — ] 

"Though I can be at home to-morrow, perhaps the 
first day of the tenth month would be a better day." 

But Okada-Shi at once said : — 

" As there is cause for anxiety about the house being 
unoccupied while Namiki-Shi is absent [on night-duty], 
to-morrow would perhaps be the better day — would it 
not ? " 

Though at first that seemed to me much too soon, I 
presently remembered that the next day was a Taian-nichi^ 

* Meaning : "I am ready to become your wife, if you are willing to take me 
as you have been informed that I am, — a poor girl without money or clothes. " 

2 Lucky and unlucky days were named and symbolized as follows, according to 
the old Japanese astrological system : — 


Senkatsu : — forenoon good ; afternoon bad. 

ToMOBiKi : — forenoon good ; afternoon good at the beginning 
and the end, but bad in the middle. 

Senfu ; — fprenoon bad ; afternoon ^ood. 


[perfectly fortunate day] : so I gave my consent ; and we 
went home. 

When I told father, he was not pleased. He said that 
it was too soon, and that a delay of at least three or four 
days ought to have been allowed. Also he said that the 
direction \^hdgaku] ^ was not lucky, and that other condi- 
tions were not favourable. 

I said : — 

" But I have already promised ; and I cannot now ask to 
have the day changed. Indeed it would be a great pity if a 
thief were to enter the house in [his] absence. As for the 
matter of the direction being unlucky, even though I should 
have to die on that account, I would not complain ; for I 
should die in my own husband's house. . . . And to-mor- 
row," I added, " I shall be too busy to call on Goto [^her 
brother-in-law^ : so I must go there now." 

I went to Goto's j but, when I saw him, I felt afraid to 

BuTsuMETsu : — wholly unlucky. 


Taian : — altogether good. 

Shak5 : — all unlucky, except at noon. 

1 This statement also implies that a professional diviner has been consulted. 
The reference to the direction, or h'ogaku, can be fully understood only by those 
conversant with the old Chinese nature-philosophy. 


say exactly what I had come to say. I suggested it only 
by telling him : — 

" To-morrow I have to go to a strange house." 

Goto immediately asked : — 

" As an honourable daughter-in-law \bride\ ? ' 

After hesitating, I answered at last : — 

" Yes." 

" What kind of a person ? " Goto asked. 

I answered : — 

" If I had felt myself able to look at him long enough 
to form any opinion, I would not have put mother to the 
trouble of going with me." 

" An'e-San [Elder Sister] ! " he exclaimed, — " then what 
was the use of going to see him at all ? . . . But," he 
added, in a more pleasant tone, " let me wish you luck." 

" Anyhow," I said, " to-morrow it will be." 

And I returned home. 

Now the appointed day having come — the twenty-eighth 
day of the ninth month — I had so much to do that I did 
not know how I should ever be able to get ready. And as 
it had been raining for several days, the roadway was very 
bad, which made matters worse for me — though, luckily, 
no rain fell on that day. I had to buy some little things ; 
and I could not well ask mother to do anything for me, — 
much as I wished for her help, — because her feet had be- 
come very weak by reason of her great age. So I got up 
very early and went out alone, and did the best I could : 
nevertheless, it was two o'clock in the afternoon before I 
got everything ready. 

Then I had to go to the hair-dresser's to have my hair 


dressed, and to go to the bath-house — all of which took 
time. And when I came back to dress, I found that no 
message had yet been received from Namiki-Shi ; and I 
began to feel a little anxious. Just after we had finished 
supper, the message came. I had scarcely time to say 
good-by to all : then I went out, — leaving my home 
behind forever, — and walked with mother to the house of 

There I had to part even from mother; and the wife 
of Okada-Shi taking charge of me, I accompanied her to 
the house of Namaki-Shi in Funamachi. 

The wedding ceremony of the sansan-kudo-no-sakazuki^ 
having been performed without any difficulty, and the time 
of the o-hiraki [" honourable-blossoming "] ^ having come 
more quickly than I had expected, the guests all returned 

So we two were left, for the first time, each alone with 
the other — sitting face to face : my heart beat wildly j ^ 

1 Lit. " thrice-three-nine-times-wine-cup. " 

* At a Japanese wedding it is customary to avoid the use of any words to which 
an unlucky sgnification attaches, or of any words suggesting misfortune in even an 
indirect way. The word iumu, "to finish," or "to end"; the word kaeru, 
" to return," (suggesting divorce), as well as many others, are forbidden at weddings. 
Accordingly, the term o-biraki has long been euphemistically substituted for the 
term oitoma (" honourable leave-taking," i.e. "farewell " ), in the popular etiquette 
of wedding assemblies. 

• *'I felt a tumultuous beating within my breast," would perhaps be a closer 
rendering of the real sense ; but it would sound oddly artificial by comparison with 
the simple Japanese utterance: ** Ato ni iva futari sasbi-mukai to nari, muni 
ucbi-sav^agi f sono baxuiasbisa bissbi ni tsukusbi-gatasbi," 


and I felt abashed in such a way as could not be expressed 
by means of ink and paper. 

Indeed, what I felt can be imagined only by one who 
remembers leaving her parents' home for the first time, to 
become a bride, — a daughter-in-law in a strange house. 

Afterward, at the hour of meals, I felt very much dis- 
tressed ^embarrassed'\. . . . 

Two or three days later, the father of my husband's for- 
mer wife \who was dead^ visited me, and said : — 

" Namiki-Shi is really a good man, — a moral, steady 
man ; but as he is also very particular about small matters 
and inclined to find fault, you had better always be careful 
to try to please him." 

Now as I had been carefully watching my husband's 
ways from the beginning, I knew that he was really a very 
strict man, and I resolved so to conduct myself in all mat- 
ters as never to cross his will. 

The fifth day of the tenth month was the day for our 
satogaeri^ and for the first time we went out together, call- 
ing at Goto's on the way. After we left Goto's, the 
weather suddenly became bad, and it began to rain. Then 
we borrowed a paper umbrella, which we used as an ai- 
gasa^ ; and though I was very uneasy lest any of my former 

1 From sato, " the parental home," and kaeri, '* to return." The first visit of a 
bride to her parents, after marriage, is thus called. 

' Aigasa, a fantastic term compounded fi-om the verb au, "to accord," "to 
harmonize," and the noun kasa, "an umbrella." It signifies one umbrella used 
by two persons — especially lovers : an umbrella-of-loving-accord. To understand 
the wife's anxiety about being seen walking with her husband under the borrowed 


neighbours should see us walking thus together, we luckily 
reached my parents' house, and made our visit of duty, 
without any trouble at all. While we were in the house, 
the rain fortunately stopped. 

On the ninth day of the same month I went with him 
to the theatre for the first time. We visited the Engiza 
at Akasaka, and saw a performance by the Yamaguchi 

On the eighth day of the eleventh month, we made a 
visit to Asakusa-temple,^ and also went to the [Shinto 
temple of the] O-Tori-Sama. 

— During this last month of the year I made new spring 
robes for my husband and myself: then I learned for the 
first time how pleasant such work was, and I felt very 

On the twenty-fifth day we visited the temple of Ten- 
jin-Sama,^ and walked about the grounds there. 

On the eleventh day of the first month of the twenty- 
ninth year [1896], called at Okada's. 

On the twelfth day we paid a visit to Goto's, and had 
a pleasant time there. 

umbrella, the reader must know that it is not yet considered decorous for wife 
and husband even to walk side by side in public. A newly wedded pair, using a 
single umbrella in this way, would be particularly liable to have jests made at their 
expense — jests that might prove trying to the nerves of a timid bride. 

1 She means the great Buddhist temple of Kwannon, — the most popular, and 
perhaps the most famous, Buddhist temple in Tokyo. 

2 In the Okubo quarter. The shrine is shadowed by a fine grove of trees. 


On the ninth day of the second month we went to the 
Mizaki theatre to see the play Imos'e-Tama. On our way 
to the theatre we met Goto-Shi unexpectedly ; and he 
went with us. But unluckily it began to rain as we were 
returning home, and we found the roads very muddy. 

On the twenty-second day of the same month [we had 
our] photograph taken at Amano's. 

On the twenty-fifth day of the third month we went to 
the Haruki theatre, and saw the play Uguisuzuka. 

— During the month it was agreed that all of us {kin- 
dred^ friends^ and parents^ should make up a party, and 
enjoy our hanami^ together j but this could not be 

On the tenth day of the fourth month, at nine o'clock 
in the morning, we two went out for a walk. We first 
visited the Shokonsha \_Shinto shrine^ at Kudan : thence we 
walked to Uyeno [park] ; and from there we went to 
Asakusa, and visited the Kwannon temple ; and we also 
prayed at the Monzeki ^Higashi Hongzvanjtj . Thence we 
had intended to go round to Asakusa-Okuyama ; but we 
thought that it would be better to have dinner first — so 
we went to an eating-house. While we were dining, we 
heard such a noise of shouting and screaming that we 
thought there was a great quarrel outside. But the trouble 

1 That is to say, " It was agreed that we should all go together to see the 
flowen." The word banami ("flower-seeing") might be given to any of the 
numerous flower-festivals of the year, according to circumstances ; but it here re- 
fers to the season of cherry blossoms. Throughout this diary the dates are those 
of the old lunar calendar. 


was really caused by a fire in one of the mis'emono [" shows "] . 
The fire spread quickly, even while we were looking at it ; 
and nearly all the show-buildings in that street were burnt 
up. . . . We left the eating-house soon after, and walked 
about the Asakusa grounds, looking at things. 

\_Here follows^ in the original Ms., the text of a 
little poem, composed by the writer herself : — ~^ 

Imado no watashi nite, 
Aimita koto mo naki hito ni, 
Fushigi ni Mimeguri-Inari, 
Kaku mo fufu ni naru nomika. 
Hajime no omoi ni hikikaete, 
Itsushika-kokoro mo Sumidagawa. 
Tsugai hanarenu miyakodori, 
Hito mo urayameba wagami mo mata, 
Sakimidaretaru dote no hana yori mo, 
Hana ni mo mashita sono hito to 
Shirahige-Yashiro ni naru made mo. 
Soitogetashi to inorinenji ! 

^Freely translated!^ 

Having been taken across the Imado-Ferry, I strangely met 
at \the temple of^ Mimeguri-Inari with a person whom I had 

1 A literal rendering is almost impossible. There is a ferry, called the Ferry of 
Imado, over the Sumidagawa ; but the reference here is really neither to the ferry 
nor to the ferryman, but to the nakZdo^ or m^tcb-maker, who arranged for the 


never seen before. Because of this meeting our relation is now 
even more than the relation of husband and wife. And my 
first anxious doubt ^ " For how long — f"' having passed away., 
my mind has become '^clear^ as the Sumida River. Indeed we 
are now like a pair of Miyako-birds [always together'^ ; and 1 
even think that I deserve to be envied. \_To see the flowers we 
went out ; but'\ more than the pleasure of viewing a whole 
shore in blossom is the pleasure that I now desire ., — always to 
dwell with this person., dearer to me than any flower.^ until we 
enter the Shirahig'e-Tashiro. That we may so remain together^ 
I supplicate the Gods ! 

. . . Then we crossed the Azuma bridge on our home- 
ward way ; and we went by steamer to the kaich'o [festival] 
of the temple of the Soga-Kyodai,^ and prayed that love 
and concord should continue always between ourselves and 
our brothers and sisters. It was after seven o'clock that 
evening when we got home. 

marriage. Mimigur'i-Inari is the popular name of a famous temple of the God 
of Rice, in Mukojima ; but there is an untranslatable play here upon the name, 
suggesting a lovers' meeting. The reference to the Sumidagawa also contains a 
play upon the syllables i«wjr, — the verb " sumi " signifying "to be clear." 
Sbirabigi-Tashiro ("White-Hair Temple") is the name of a real and very 
celebrated Shinto shrine in the city ; but the name is here used chiefly to express 
the hope that the union may last into the period of hoary age. Besides these sug- 
gestions, we may suppose that the poem contains allusions to the actual journey 
made, — over the Sumidagawa by ferry, and thence to the various temples named. 
From old time, poems of like meaning have been made about these places ; but the 
lines above given are certainly original, with the obvious exception of a few phrases 
which have become current coin in popular poetry. 

1 The Soga Brothers were femous heroes of the twelfth century. The word 
iaicho signifies the religious festival during which the principal image of a temple is 
exposed to view. 


— On the twenty-fifth day of the same month we 
went to the Rokumono-no-Yose.^ 

:|e :|c 4: 4= N< H: 

On the second day of the fifth month we visited [the 
gardens at] Okubo to see the azaleas in blossom. 

On the sixth day of the same month we went to see a 
display of fireworks at the Shokonsha. 

— So far we had never had any words between us nor 
any disagreement ; ^ and I had ceased to feel bashful when 
we went out visiting or sight-seeing. Now each of us 
seemed to think only of how to please the other; and I 
felt sure that nothing would ever separate us. . . . May 
our relation always be thus happy ! 

The eighteenth day of the sixth month, being the festi- 
val of the Suga-jinja,^ we were invited to my father's house. 
But as the hair-dresser did not come to dress my hair at 
the proper time, I was much annoyed. However, I went 
with O-Tori-San [a younger sister] to father's. Presently 
O-Ko-San [a married sister] also came ; — and we had a 
pleasant time. In the evening Goto-Shi [husband of 0-Ko] 
joined us ; and, last of all, came my husband, for whom I 
had been waiting with anxious impatience. And there was 
one thing that made me very glad. Often when he and I 
were to go out together, I had proposed that we should put 

1 Name of a public hall at which various kinds of entertainments are given, 
more especially recitations by professional story-tellers. 

2 Lit. "there never yet having been any waves nor even wind between us." 
•The Shinto parish-temple, or more correctly, district-temple of the Yotsuya 

quarter. Each quarter, or district, of the city has its tutelar dimity, or Ujigami. 
Suga-jinja is the Ujigami-temple of Yotsuya. 


on the new spring robes which I had made ; but he had as 
often refused, — preferring to wear his old kimono. Now, 
however, he wore the new one, — having felt obliged to 
put it on because of father's invitation. . . . All of us 
being thus happily assembled, the party became more and 
more enjoyable ; and when we had at last to say good-by, 
we only regretted the shortness of the summer night. 
These are the poems which we composed that evening : — 

Sorote iwo, 

Ujigami no 
Matsuri mo kyo wa 
Nigiwai ni keri. 

— By Namiki (jhe husband'). 

Two wedded couples having gone together to worship at the 

temple., the parish-festival to-day has been merrier than ever 


Ujigami no 

Matsuri medetashi 

Futa-fufu. — Also by the husband. 

Fortunate indeed for two married couples has been the parish- 
temple festival I 

Ikutose mo 

Niglyaka narishi, 

Ujigami no, 
Matsuri ni soro, 
Kyo no ureshisa. — By the wife. 


Though for ever so many years it has always been a joyous 
occasion^ the festival of our parish-temple to-day is more pleasant 
than ever before^ because of our being thus happily assembled 

Matsuri tote, 

Ikka atsumaru, 

Tanoshimi wa ! 
Geni Ujigami no 
Megumi narikeri. 

— By the wife. 

To-day being a day of festival^ and all of us meeting together^ 
— what a delight I Surely by the favour of the tutelar God 
[ Ujigami^ this has come to pass. 

Sorote kyo no 

Shitashimi mo, 
Kami no megumi zo 
Medeta kari-keri. — By the wife. 

Two wedded pairs being to-day united in such friendship as 
thisy — certainly it has happened only through the favour of the 
Gods ! 

Ujigami no 

Megumi mo fukaki 

Fufu-zure. — By the wife. 

Deep indeed is the favour of the tutelar God to the two mar- 
ried couples. 


Matsuri tote, 
Tsui ni shitateshi 


Kyo tanoshimi ni 

Kiru to omoeba. 

— By the wife. 

This day being a day of festival., we decided to put on., for 
the joyful meeting., the robes of lyogasuri^ that had been made 

Omoikya ! 

Hakarazu soro 

Futa-fufu ; 

Nani ni tatoen 

Ky5 no kichi-jitsu. 

— By Goto {the brother-in-law'). 

How could we have thought it I Here unexpectedly the two 
married couples meet together. What can compare with the 
good fortune of this day ? 

Matsuri tote 
Hajimete sor5 

Nochi no kaeri zo 
Ima wa kanashiki. 

— By O-Ko, the married sister, 

1 Jyogasuri is the name given to a kind of dark-blue cotton-cloth, with a sprin- 
kling of white in small patterns, manufactured at lyo, in Shikoku. 


This day being a day of festival^ here for the first time two 
wedded pairs have met. Already I find myself sorrowing at the 
thought that we must separate again. 

Furu-sato no 
Matsuri ni sor5 

Futa-fufu : 

Kataro ma sae 

Natsu mo mijika yo ! 

— By O-JCo. 

At the old parental home^ two married couples have met 
together in holiday celebration. Alas ! that the time of our 
happy converse should be only one short summer night ! 

On the fifth day of the seventh month, went to the 
Kanazawa-tei,i where Harimadayu was then reciting; and 
we heard him recite the joruri called SanjUsangendo. 

On the first day of the eighth month we went to the 
[Buddhist] temple of Asakusa [Kwannon] to pray, — 
that day being the first anniversary [^isshukt] of the death 
of my husband's former wife. Afterward we went to an 
eel-house, near the Azuma bridge, for dinner; and while 
we were there — just about the hour of noon — an earth- 
quake took place. Being close to the river, the house 
rocked very much ; and I was greatly frightened. 

^The Kanazawa-tei is a public hall in the Yotsuya quarter. Harimadayu is 
the professional name of a celebrated chanter of the dramatic recitations called joruri 
and gidayu, — in which the reciter, or chanter, mimes the voices and action of 
many diiTerent characters. 


— Remembering that when we went to Asakusa before, 
in the time of cherry blossoms, we had seen a big fire, this 
earthquake made me feel anxious ; — I wondered whether 
lightning would come next.i 

About two o'clock we left the eating-house, and went to 
the Asakusa park. From there we went by street-car to 
Kanda ; and we stopped awhile at a cool place in Kanda, 
to rest ourselves. On our way home we called at father's, 
and it was after nine o'clock when we got back. 

The fifteenth day of the same month was the festival of 
the Hachiman-jinja^; and Goto, my sister, and the younger 
sister of Goto came to the house. I had hoped that we 
could all go to the temple together ; but that morning my 
husband had taken a little too much wine, — so we had to 
go without him. After worshipping at the temple, we 
went to Goto's house ; and I stopped there awhile before 
returning home. 

In the ninth month, on the occasion of the Higan ^ fes- 
tival, I went alone to the [Buddhist] temple to pray. 

On the twenty-first day of the tenth month, O-Taka- 
San ^probably a relative]^ came from Shidzuoka. I wanted 

^She alludes to a popular saying of Buddhist origin : — Jhhin, iwaji, kaminari, 
misoia, kikin, yamai no naki kuni e yuku ("Let us go to the Land where there 
is neither earthquake, nor fire, nor lightning, nor any last day of the month, nor 
&nine, nor sickness"). 

2 Ujigami of the Ushigome district. 

8 Festival of the " Further Shore" (that is to say, Paradise). There are two 
great Buddhist festivals thus called, — the first representing a period of seven days 
during the spring equinox ; the second, a period of seven days during the autumnal 


to take her to the theatre the next day ; but she was 
obliged to leave Tokyo early in the morning. However, 
my husband and I went to the Ryusei theatre on the fol- 
lowing evening; and we saw the play called Matsumae 
Bidan Teichu-Kagami." ^ 

On the twenty-second day of the sixth month I began 
to sew a kimono which father had asked me to make for 
him ; but I felt ill, and could not do much. However, I 
was able to finish the work on the first day of the new 
year [1897]. 

. . . Now we were very happy because of the child 
that was to be born. And I thought how proud and glad 
my parents would be at having a grandchild for the first 

if. if. if. ifi •$(■ 'M 

On the tenth day of the fifth month I went out with 
mother to worship Shiogama-Sama,^ and also to visit 
Sengakuji. There we saw the tombs of the Shijin-shichi 
Shi [Forty-seven Ronin] , and many relics of their history. 
We returned by railroad, taking the train from Shinagawa 
to Shinjiku. At Shiocho-Sanchdme I parted from mother, 
and I got home by six o'clock. 

On the eighth day of the sixth month, at four o'clock in 
the afternoon, a boy was born. Both mother and child 

iThis drama is founded upon the history of a famous rice merchant named 
Matsumaeya Gorobei. 

2 Shiogama-Daimyojin, a Shinto deity, to whom women pray for easy delivery 
in child-birth. Shrines of this divinity may be found in almost every province of 


appeared to be as well as could be wished ; and the child 
much resembled my husband ; and its eyes were large and 
black. . . . But I must say that it was a very small 
child; for, though it ought to have been born in the 
eighth month, it was born indeed in the sixth. ... At 
seven o'clock in the evening of the same day, when the 
time came to give the child some medicine, we saw, by 
the light of the lamp, that he was looking all about, with 
his big eyes wide open. During that night the child slept 
in my mother's bosom. As we had been told that he must 
be kept very warm, because he was only a seven-months' 
child, it was decided that he should be kept in the bosom 
by day as well as by night. 

Next day — the ninth day of the sixth month — at half- 
past six o'clock in the afternoon, he suddenly died. . . . 

— '' Brief is the time of pleasure^ and quickly turns to pain ; 
and whatsoever is born must necessarily die " ^ ; — that, indeed, 
is a true saying about this world. 

Only for one day to be called a mother ! — to have a 
child born only to see it die ! . . . Surely, I thought, if 
a child must die within two days after birth, it were better 
that it should never be born. 

From the twelfth to the sixth month I had been so ill ! 
— then at last I had obtained some ease, and joy at the 
birth of a son ; and I had received so many congratulations i 
about my good fortune ; — and, nevertheless, he was dead ! 
. . . Indeed, I suffered great grief. 

1 Ureshild ma wa wa/.uka nite, mata kanashimi to henzuru ; umareru mono 
wa kanarazu shizu. — A Buddhist text that has become a Japanese proverb. 


On the tenth day of the sixth month the funeral took 
place, at the temple called Senpukuji, in Okubo, and a 
small tomb was erected. 

The poems composed at that time ^ were the follow- 
ing : — 

Omoikya ! 
Mi ni sae kaenu 

Nadeshiko ni, 
Wakareshi sode no 
Tsuyu no tamoto wo ! 

If I could only have known I Ah^ this parting with the 
flower^ for which I would so gladly have given my own life^ 
has left my sleeves wet with the dew ! 

Samidare ya ! 
Shimerigachi naru 
Sode no tamoto wo. 

Oh I the month of rain ! ^ All things become damp ; — the 
ends of my sleeves are wet. 

1 Composed by the bereaved mother herself, as a discipline against grief. 

2 Nadeshiko literally means a pink ; but in poetry the word is commonly used 
in the meaning of "baby." 

8 Samidare is the name given to the old fifth month, or, more strictly speaking, 
to a rainy period occurring in that month. The verses are, of course, allusive, and 
their real meaning might be rendered thus : " Oh ! the season of grief! All things 
now seem sad : the sleeves of my robe are moist with my tears ! " 


Some little time afterward, people told me that if I 
planted the sotoba ^ pside down, another misfortune of 
this kind would not come to pass. I had a great many 
sorrowful doubts about doing such a thing ; but at last, on 
the ninth day of the eighth month, I had the sotoba re- 
versed. . . . 

On the eighth day of the ninth month we went to the 
Akasaka theatre. 

On the eighteenth day of the tenth month I went by 
myself to the Haruki theatre in Hongo, to see the play of 
Okubo Hikozaemon? There, having carelessly lost my 
sandal-ticket \_gesoku-fuda\^ I had to remain until after 
everybody else had left. Then I was at last able to get 
my sandals, and to go home ; but the night was so black 
that I felt very lonesome on the way. 

On the day of the Sekku^ in the first month [1898], I 

1 The totoba is a tall wooden lath, inscribed with Buddhist texts, and planted 
above a grave. For a full account of the sotoba, see the article entitled " The Lit- 
erature of the Dead," in my Exotics and Retrospectives, p. I02. I am not able to 
give any account or explanation of the curious superstition here referred to ; but it is 
probably of the same class with the strange custom recorded in my Gleanings in 
Buddha-Fields, p. ia6. 

* It would be unfeir to suppose that this visit to the theatre was made only for 
pleasure ; it was made rather in the hope of forgetting pain, and probably by order 
of the husband. 

Okubo Hikozaemon was the favourite minister and adviser of the Shogun lyem- 
itsu. Numberless stories of his sagacity and kindness are recorded in popular lit- 
erature ; and in nany dramas the notable incidents of his official career are still 

• There are five holidays thus named in every year. These go-sekku are usually 
called, Jinjitsu (the 7th of the ist month), Joki (the 3d of the 3d month), 


was talking with Hori's aunt and the wife of our friend 
Uchimi, when I suddenly felt a violent pain in my breast, 
and, being frightened, I tried to reach a talisman ^o-mamori^ 
of Suitengu,^ which was lying upon the wardrobe. But in 
the same moment I fell senseless. Under kind treatment 
I soon came to myself again ; but I was ill for a long time 

The tenth day of the fourth month being the holiday 
Sanjiu-nen-Sai^ we arranged to meet at father's. I was 
to go there first with Jiunosuke \_perhaps a relative^ , and 
there wait for my husband, who had to go to the office 
that morning for a little while. He met us at father's 
house about half-past eight : then the three of us went out 
together to look at the streets. We passed through Koji- 
machi to Nakatamachi, and went by way of the Sakurada- 
Mon to the Hibiya-Metsuke, and thence from Ginzadori 
by way of the Megane-Bashi to Uyeno. After looking at 
things there, we again went to the Megane-bashi; but then 
I felt so tired that I proposed to return, and my husband 
agreed, as he also was very tired. But Jiunosuke said : 
" As I do not want to miss this chance to see the Daimyo- 
procession,^ I must go on to Ginza." So there we said 

Tango (the 5th of the 5th month), Tanabata (the 7th of the 7th month), and 
Cboyo (the 9th of the 9th month). 

^ A divinity half-Buddhist, half-Shinto, in origin, but now popularly considered 
Shinto. This god is especially worshipped as a healer, and a protector against sick- 
ness. His principal temple in Tokyo is in the Nihonbashi district. 

2 A festival in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment 
of Tokyo as the Imperial capital, instead of Kyoto. 

' Daimyo-no~gyoretsu. On the festival mentioned there was a pageant repre- 
senting feudal princes travelling in state, accompanied by their retainers and servants. 


good-by to him, and we went to a little eating-house [tem- 
pura-yal , where we were served with fried fish ; and, as luck 
would have it, we got a good chance to see the Daimyo- 
procession from that very house. We did not get back 
home that evening until half-past six o'clock. 

From the middle of the fourth month I had much sor- 
row on account of a matter relating to my sister Tori \_the 
matter is not mentioned]. 


On the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the thirty- 
first year of Meiji [1898] my second child was born, 
almost painlessly, — a girl; and we named her Hatsu. 

We invited to the shichiya ^ all those who had helped us 
at the time of the child's birth. 

— Mother afterwards remained with me for a couple of 
days ; but she was then obliged to leave me, because my 
sister Ko was suffering from severe pains in the chest. 
Fortunately my husband had his regular vacation about the 
same time; and he helped me all he could, — even in re- 
gard to washing and other matters ; but I was often greatly 
troubled because I had no woman with me. . . . 

When my husband's vacation was over, mother came 
often, but only while my husband was away. The twenty- 
one days \the period of danger] thus passed ; but mother 
and child continued well. 

The real armour, costumes, and weapons of the period before Mdji were effectively 

displayed on this occasion. 

1 A congratulatory feast, held on the evening of the seventh day after the birth 
of a child. Relatives and friends invited usually make small presents to the baby. 


— Up to the time of one hundred days after my daugh- 
ter's birth, I was constantly anxious about her, because she 
often seemed to have a difficulty in breathing. But that 
passed ofF at last, and she appeared to be getting strong. 

Still, we were unhappy about one matter, — a deformity : 
Hatsu had been born with a double thumb on one hand. 
For a long time we could not make up our minds to take 
her to a hospital, in order to have an operation performed. 
But at last a woman living near our house told us of a very 
skilful surgeon in [the quarter of] Shinjiku ; and we decided 
to go to him. My husband held the child on his lap dur- 
ing the operation. I could not bear to see the operation ; 
and I waited in the next room, my heart full of pain and 
fear, wondering how the matter would end. But [when 
all was over] the little one did not appear to suffer any 
pain ; and she took the breast as usual a few minutes after. 
So the matter ended more fortunately than I had thought 

At home she continued to take her milk as before, and 
seemed as if nothing had been done to her little body. But 
as she was so very young we were afraid that the operation 
might in some way cause her to be sick. By way of pre- 
caution, I went with her to the hospital every day for about 
three weeks ; but she showed no sign of sickness. 

On the third day of the third month of the thirty-second 
year [1899], on the occasion of the hatsu-sekku^ we re- 
ceived presents of Dairi and of hina^ both from father's 
house and from Goto's, — also the customary gifts of con- 

1 The first annual Festival of Girls is thus called. 


gratulation : a tansu [chest of drawers] , a kybdai [mirror- 
stand] , and a haribako [work-box : lit. " needle-box "] ^ 
We ourselves on the same occasion bought for her a 
chadai [teacup stand], a zen [lacquered tray], and some 
other little things. Both Goto and Jiunosuke came to see 
us on that day ; and we had a very happy gathering. 

On the third day of the fourth month we visited the 
temple Ana-Hachiman \Sh'into shrine in the district of 
Was'eda^ to pray for the child's health. . . . 

On the twenty-ninth day of the fourth month Hatsu 
appeared to be unwell : so I wanted to have her examined 
by a doctor. 

A doctor promised to come the same morning, but he 
did not come, and I waited for him in vain all that day. 
Next day again I waited, but he did not come. Toward 
evening Hatsu became worse, and seemed to be suffering 
great pain in her breast, and I resolved to take her to a 
doctor early next morning. All through that night I was 
very uneasy about her, but at daybreak she seemed to be 
better. So I went out alone, taking her on my back, and 
walked to the office of a doctor in Akasaka. But when I 
asked to have the child examined, I was told that I must 
wait, as it was not yet the regular time for seeing patients. 

While I was waiting, the child began to cry worse than 
ever before ; she would not take the breast, and I could do 
nothing to soothe her, either by walking or resting, so that 
I was greatly troubled. At last the doctor came, and began 

1 All the objects here mentioned are toys — toys appropriate to the occasion. 
The Dairl are old-fashioned toy-figures, representing an emperor and empress in 
ancient costume. Hina are dolls. 


to examine her ; and in the same moment I noticed that 
her crying grew feebler, and that her lips were becoming 
paler and paler. Then, as I could not remain silent, see- 
ing her thus, I had to ask, " How is her condition ? " 
" She cannot live until evening," he answered. " But 
could you not give her medicine ? " I asked. " If she 
could drink it," he replied. 

I wanted to go back home at once, and send word to 
my husband and to my father's house ; but the shock had 
been too much for me — all my strength suddenly left 
me. Fortunately a kind old woman came to my aid, and 
carried my umbrella and other things, and helped me to 
get into a jinrikisha, so that I was able to return home by 
jinrikisha. Then I sent a man to tell my husband and 
my father. Mita's wife came to help me ; and with her 
assistance everything possible was done to help the child. 
. . . Still my husband did not come back. But all our 
pain and trouble was in vain. 

So, on the second day of the fifth month of the thirty- 
second year, my child set out on her journey to the yUman- 
okudo^ — never to return to this world. 

And we, her father and mother, were yet living — though 
we had caused her death by neglecting to have her treated 
by a skilled doctor ! This thought made us both sorrow 
greatly ; and we often reproached ourselves in vain. 

But the day after her death the doctor said to us : " Even 
if that disease had been treated from the beginning by the 

1 Another name for the Buddhist Paradise of the West, — the heaven of 
Amida (Amitabha). 


best possible means, your child could not have lived more 
than about a week. If she had been ten or eleven years old, 
she might possibly have been saved by an operation ; but in 
this case no operation could have been attempted — the 
child was too young." Then he explained to us that the 
child had died from zjinz,oen} . . . 

Thus all the hopes that we had, and all the pains that 
we took in caring for her, and all the pleasure of watch- 
ing her grow during those nine months, — all were in vain ! 

But we two were at last able to find some ease from our 
sorrow by reflecting that our relation to this child, from the 
time of some former life, must have been very slight and 

In the loneliness of that weary time, I tried to express 
my heart by writing some verses after the manner of the 
story of Miyagino and Shinobu in the gidayu-hon ^ : — 

Kore, kono uchi e enzukishi wa, 
Omoi kaeseba Itsutose mae ; 
Kondo m5keshi wa onago no ko, 
Kawaii mono tote sodatsuru ka to ; — 

1 Nephritis. 

2 Or, "very thin and loose," — the Karma-relation being emblematically 
spoken of as a bond or tie. She means, of course, that the loss of the child was 
the inevitable consequence of some fault committed in a previous state of existence. 

' Gidayu-hon, "the book of the gidayu.'" There are many gidayu books. 
Gidayu is the name given to a kind of musical drama. In the dramatic composi- 
tion here referred to, the characters Miyagino and Shinobu are sisters, who relate 
their sorrows to each other. 


Waga mi no nari wa uchi-wasure, 
Sodateshi koto mo, nasake nai. 
Koshita koto to wa tsuyushirazu, 
Kono Hatsu wa buji ni sodatsuru ka. 
Shubi y5 seijin shita naraba, 
Yagate muko wo tori 
Tanoshimasho doshite to. 
Monomi yusan wo tashinande, 
Wagako daiji to, 

Otto no koto mo, Hatsu no koto mo, 
Koi'shi natsukashi om5 no wo ; — 
Tanoshimi-kurashita kai mo no. 
Oyako ni narishi wa ureshii ga, 
Sakidatsu koto wo miru haha no 
Kokoro mo suishite tamoi no to ! 

— Te wo tori-kawasu fufu ga nageki, 
Nageki wo tachi-giku mo, 
Morai nakishite omoteguchi 
Shoji mo nururu bakari nari. 

Here in this house it was that I married him ; — well I re- 
member the day — Jive years ago. Here was born the girl-baby^ 
— the loved one whom we hoped to rear. Caring then no 
longer for my person [, — heedless of how I dressed when I went 
out'\ , — thinking only of how to bring her up^ — / lived. How 
pitiless [this doom of mine^ I Never had I even dreamed that 


such a thing could befall me : my only thoughts were as to how 
my Hatsu could best be reared. When she grows up^ I thought^ 
soon we shall find her a good husband^ to make her life happy. 
So, never going out for pleasure-seeking, I studied only how to 
care for my little one, — how to love and to cherish my husband 
and my Hatsu. Vain now, alas ! this hoped for joy of living 
only for her sake. . . . Once having known the delight of the 
relation of mother and child, deign to think of the heart of the 
mother who sees her child die before her I ^ 

[All of the foregoing is addressed to the spirit of the 
dead child. — Translator.] 

Nonx), while husband and wife, each clasping the hands of 
the other, make lament together, if any one pausing at the en- 
trance should listen to their sorrow, surely the paper window 
would be moistened by tears from without. 

About the time of Hatsu's death, the law concerning 
funerals was changed for the better; and permission was 
given for the burning of corpses in Okubo. So I asked 
Namiki to have the body sent to the temple of which his 
family had always been parishioners, — providing that 
there should be no [legal] difficulty about the matter. 
Accordingly the funeral took place at Monjoji, — a temple 
belonging to the Asakusa branch of the Hongwanji Shin- 
shu ; and the ashes were there interred. 

^ I.e. before she herself (the mother) dies; — there is a colloquial phrase in 
the Japanese text. Ko ga oya nl saiiJatsu is the common expression : " the child 
goes before the parents," — that is to say, dies before the parents. 


— My sister K5 was sick in bed with a rather bad cold 
at the time of Hatsu's death ; but she visited us very soon 
after the news had reached her. And she called again a 
few days later to tell us that she had become almost well,, 
and that we had no more cause to feel anxious about her. 

— As for myself, I felt a dread of going out anywhere ; 
and I did not leave the house for a whole month. But as 
custom does not allow one to remain always indoors, I had 
to go out at last ; and I made the required visit to father's 
and to my sister's. 

— Having become quite ill, I hoped that mother would 
be able to help me. But Ko was again sick, and Yoshi 
]^a younger sister here mentioned for the first timely and mother 
had both to attend her constantly : so I could get no aid 
from father's house. There was no one to help me except 
some of my female neighbours, who attended me out of pure 
kindness, when they could spare the time. At last I got 
Hori-Shi to engage a good old woman to assist me ; and 
under her kind care I began to get well. About the begin- 
ning of the eighth month I felt much stronger. . . . 

On the fourth day of the ninth month my sister Ko 
died of consumption. 

— It had been agreed beforehand that if an unexpected 
matter ^ came to pass, my younger sister Yoshi should be 
received in the place of Ko. As Goto-Shi found it incon- 
venient to live altogether alone, the marriage took place on 
the eleventh day of the same month ; and the usual con- 
gratulations were offered. 

1 A euphemistic expression for death. 


1- On the last day of the same month Okada-Shi suddenly 

We found ourselves greatly troubled \_ pecuniarily embar- 
rassed^ by the expenses that all these events caused us. 

— When I first heard that Yoshi had been received so 
soon after the death of Ko, I was greatly displeased. But 
I kept my feelings hidden, and I spoke to the man as before. 

In the eleventh month Goto went alone to Sapporo. 

On the second day of the second month, thirty-third 
year of Meiji [1900], Goto-Shi returned to Tokyo; and 
on the fourteenth day of the same month he went away 
again to the Hokkaido [T'^zo], taking Yoshi with him. 

* 4c * ♦ 4c « 

On the twentieth day of the second month, at six o'clock 
in the morning, my third child — a boy — was born. Both 
mother and child were well. 

— We had expected a girl, but it was a boy that was 
born ; so, when my husband came back from his work, he 
was greatly surprised and pleased to find that he had a boy. 

— But the child was not well able to take the breast : so 
we had to nourish him by means of a feeding-bottle. 

On the seventh day after the boy's birth, we partly 
shaved his head. And in the evening we had the shichiya 
[seventh-day festival] — but, this time, all by ourselves. 

— My husband had caught a bad cold some time before ; 
and he could not go to work next morning, as he was 
coughing badly. So he remained in the house. 


Early in the morning the child had taken his milk as 
usual. But, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, he seemed 
to be suffering great pain in his breast ; and he began to 
moan so strangely that we sent a man for a doctor. Un- 
fortunately the doctor that we asked to come was out of 
town ; and we were told that he would not come back be- 
fore night. Therefore, we thought that it would be better 
to send at once for another doctor; and we sent for one. 
He said that he would come in the evening. But, about 
two o'clock in the afternoon, the child's sickness suddenly 
became worse; and a little before three o'clock — the 
twenty-seventh day of the second month — aenaku / ^ — my 
child was dead, having lived for only eight days. . . . 

— I thought to myself that, even if this new misfortune 
did not cause my husband to feel an aversion for me, thus 
having to part with all my children, one after another, 
must be the punishment of some wrong done in the time 
of a former life. And, so thinking, I knew that my sleeves 
would never again become dry, — that the rain ^of tears^ 
would never cease, — that never again in this world would 
the sky grow clear for me. 

And more and more I wondered whether my husband's 
feelings would not change for the worse, by reason of his 
having to meet such trouble, over and over again, on my 
account. I felt anxious about his heart, because of what 
already was in my own. 

Nevertheless, he only repeated the words, Temmet itashi- 

"^ Alnaku is an adjective signifying, according to circumstances, "feeble," or 
"transitory," or " sad." Its use here might best be rendered by some such phrase 
as " Piteous to say ! " 


kata kor'e naku : " From the decrees of Heaven there is no 

— I thought that I should be better able to visit the 
tomb of my child if he were buried in some temple near 
us. So the funeral took place at the temple called Sempu- 
kuji in Okubo ; and the ashes were buried there. . . . 

Tanoshimi mo 
Samete hakanashi 
Haru no yume P 

[ Translation.'^ 

— jfll the delight having perished^ hopeless I remain : it was 
only a dream of Spring ! ^ 

[No date.] 

... I wonder whether it was because of the sorrow 
that I suffered — my face and limbs became slightly swol- 
len during the fortnight ^ after my boy's death. 

— It was nothing very serious, after all, and it soon 
went away. . . . Now the period of twenty-one days 
^the period of dangerl is past. . . . 

* Her poem bears no date. 

* A necessarily free translation ; — the lines might also be read thus : " Having 
awakened, all the joy fleets and fades; — it was only a dream of Spring." The 
verb sameru, very effectively used here, allows of this double rendering ; for it means 
either •' to awake " or "to fade." The adjective hakanashi also has a double mean- 
ing : according to circumstances it may agnify either " fleeting " (evanescent) or 
" hopeless " (wretched). 

' Lit. " the first two nanuka ' ' : one rtanuka representing a period of seven suc- 
cessive days from the date of death. 


Here the poor mother's diary ends. The closing 
statement regarding the time of twenty-one days 
from the birth of her child leaves it probable that 
these last lines were written on the thirteenth or 
fourteenth day of the third month. She died on 
the twenty-eighth of the same month. 

I doubt if any one not really familiar with the 
life of Japan can fully understand this simple 
history. But to imagine the merely material 
conditions of the existence here recorded should not 
be difficult : — the couple occupying a tiny house 
of two rooms — one room of six mats and one 
of three; — the husband earning barely ^i per 
month ; — the wife sewing, washing, cooking (out- 
side the house, of course) ; — no comfort of fire, 
even during the period of greatest cold. I estimate 
that the pair must have lived at an average cost 
of about seven pence a day, not including house- 
rent. Their pleasures were indeed very cheap : 
a payment of twopence admitted them to theatres 
or to gUayu-rccita.tions ; and their sight-seeing was 
done on foot. Yet even these diversions were 
luxuries for them. Expenses represented by the 
necessary purchase of clothing, or by the obligation 


of making presents to kindred upon the occasion 
of a marriage or a birth or a death, could only have 
been met by heroic economy. Now it is true that 
thousands of poor folk in Tokyo live still more 
cheaply than this, — live upon a much smaller 
income than ^^"i per month, — and nevertheless 
remain always clean, neat, and cheerful. But only 
a very strong woman can easily bear and bring 
up children under such conditions, — conditions 
much more hazardous than those of the harder but 
healthier peasant-life of the interior. And, as 
might be supposed, the weakly fail and perish in 

Readers of the diary may have wondered at the 
eagerness shown by so shy and gentle a woman 
to become thus suddenly the wife of a total stranger, 
about whose character she knew absolutely nothing. 
A majority of Japanese marriages, indeed, are 
arranged for in the matter-of-fact way here described, 
and with the aid of a nakbdo ; but the circumstances, 
in this particular case, were exceptionally discom- 
forting. The explanation is pathetically simple. 
All good girls are expected to marry ; and to 
remain unmarried after a certain age is a shame and 


a reproach. The dread of such reproach, doubtless, 
impelled the writer of the diary to snatch at the 
first chance of fulfilling her natural destiny. She 
was already twenty-nine years old ; — another such 
chance might never have offered itself. 

To me the chief significance of this humble 
confession of struggle and failure is not in the 
utterance of anything exceptional, but in the ex- 
pression of something as common to Japanese 
life as blue air and sunshine. The brave resolve 
of the woman to win affection by docility and by 
faultless performance of duty, her gratitude for 
every small kindness, her childHke piety, her 
supreme unselfishness, her Buddhist interpretation 
of suffering as the penalty for some fault committed 
in a previous life, her attempts to write poetry 
when her heart was breaking, — all this, indeed, I 
find touching, and more than touching. But I 
do not find it exceptional. The traits revealed 
are typical, — typical of the moral nature of the 
woman of the people. Perhaps there are not many 
Japanese women of the same humble class who 
could express their personal joy and pain in a 
record at once so artless and pathetic ; but there are 



millions of such women inheriting — from ages and 
ages of unquestioning faith — a like conception of 
life as duty, and an equal capacity of unselfish 






IN various countries of which the peoples appear 
strange to us, by reason of beliefs, ideas, 
customs, and arts having nothing in common 
with our own, there can be found something in 
the nature of the land — something in its flora or 
fauna — characterized by a corresponding strange- 
ness. Probably the relative queerness of the exotic 
nature in such regions helped more or less to 
develop the apparent oddity of the exotic mind. 
National differences of thought or feeling should 
not be less evolutionally interpretable than the 
forms of vegetables or of insects ; and, in the 
mental evolution of a people, the influence of en- 
vironment upon imagination must be counted as 
a factor. . . . 

These reflections were induced by a box of crabs 
sent me from the Province of Choshu, — crabs 
possessing that very same quality of grotesqueness 

K 129 


which we are accustomed to think of as being 
peculiarly Japanese. On the backs of these crea- 
tures there are bossings and depressions that curi- 
ously simulate the shape of a human face, — a 
distorted face, — a face modelled in relief as a 
Japanese craftsman might have modelled it in some 
moment of artistic whim. 

Two varieties of such crabs — nicely dried and 
polished — are constantly exposed for sale in the 
shops of Akamagaseki (better known to foreigners 

by the name of Shimonoseki). They are caught 
along the neighbouring stretch of coast called Dan- 
no-Ura, where the great clan of the Heike, or 
Taira, were exterminated in a naval battle, seven 
centuries ago, by the rival clan of Genji, or Mina- 
moto. Readers of Japanese history will remember 



the story of the Imperial Nun, Nii-no-Ama, who 
in the hour of that awful tragedy composed a 
poem, and then leaped into the sea, with the child- 
emperor Antoku in her arms. 

Now the grotesque crabs of this coast are called 
Heike-gani, or " Heike-crabs," because of a legend 
that the spirits of the drowned and slaughtered 

warriors of the Heike-clan assumed such shapes ; 
and it is said that the fury or the agony of the 
death-struggle can still be discerned in the faces 
upon the backs of the crabs. But to feel the 
romance of this legend you should be familiar with 
old pictures of the fight of Dan-no-Ura, — old 
coloured prints of the armoured combatants, with 
their grim battle-masks of iron and their great 
fierce eyes. 



The smaller variety of crab is known simply as a 
" Heike-crab," — Heike-gani. Each Heike-gani 
is supposed to be animated by the spirit of a com- 
mon Heike warrior only, — an ordinary samurai. 
But the larger kind of crab is also termed Taish5- 
gani (" Chieftain-crab "), or Tatsugashira (" Dragon- 
helmet ") ; and all Taisho-gani or Tatsugashira are 
thought to be animated by ghosts of those great 
Heike captains who bore upon their helmets 
monsters unknown to Western heraldry, and glitter- 
ing horns, and dragons of gold. 

I got a Japanese friend to draw for me the two 
pictures of Heike-gani herewith reproduced ; and 
I can vouch for their accuracy. But I told him 
that I could not see anything resembling a hel- 
met, either in his drawing of 
the Tatsugashira, nor in the 
original figure upon the back 
of the crab. 

" Can you see it ? " I asked. 

" Why, yes, — somewhat like 
this," he answered, making the 
following sketch : — 

" Well, I can make out part of the head-gear," 



I said ; — " but that outline of yours is not accord- 
ing to facts, — and that face is vapid as the face 
of the Moon. Look at the nightmare on the back 
of the real crab ! , . . " 



I WANT to talk about Japanese fireflies, but 
not entomologically. If you are interested, 
as you ought to be, in the scientific side of the 
subject, you should seek enlightenment from a 
Japanese professor of biology, now lecturing at the 
Imperial University of T5kyo. He signs himself 
"Mr. S. Watase" (the "S" standing for the per- 
sonal name Shozaburo) ; and he has been a teacher 
as well as a student of science in America, where a 
number of his lectures have been published,^ — 
lectures upon animal phosphorescence, animal elec- 
tricity, the light-producing organs of insects and 
fishes, and other wonderful topics of biology. He 
can tell you all that is known concerning the mor- 
phology of fireflies, the physiology of fireflies, the 

1 Professor Watase is a graduate of Johns Hopkins. Since this essay was 
written, his popular Japanese lectures upon the firefly have been reissued in a single 
pretty volume. The coloured frontispiece, — showing fireflies at night upon a 
willow-branch, — is alone worth the price of the book. 


photometry of fireflies, the chemistry of their lumi- 
nous substance, the spectroscopic analysis of their 
light, and the significance of that light in terms of 
ether-vibration. By experiment he can show you 
that, under normal conditions of temperature and 
environment, the number of light-pulsations pro- 
duced by one species of Japanese firefly averages 
twenty-six per minute ; and that the rate suddenly 
rises to sixty-three per minute, if the insect be 
frightened by seizure. Also he can prove to you 
that another and smaller kind of firefly, when taken 
in the hand, will increase the number of its light- 
pulsings to upward of two hundred per minute. 
He suggests that the light may be of some protec- 
tive value to the insect, — like the "warning 
colours " of sundry nauseous caterpillars and butter- 
flies, — because the firefly has a very bitter taste, 
and birds appear to find it unpalatable. (Frogs, 
he has observed, do not mind the bad taste : they 
fill their cold bellies with fireflies till the light shines 
through them, much as the light of a candle-flame 
will glow through a porcelain jar.) But whether of 
protective value or not, the tiny dynamo would 
seem to be used in a variety of ways, — as a photo- 
telegraph, for example. As other insects converse 


by sound or by touch, the firefly utters its emotion 

in luminous pulsings : its speech is a language of 

light. ... I am only giving you some hints about 

the character of the professor's lectures, which 

are never merely technical. And for the best part 

of this non-scientific essay of mine, — especially 

that concerning the capture and the sale of fireflies 

in Japan, — I am indebted to some delightful 

lectures which he delivered last jear to Japanese 

audiences in Tokyo. 


As written to-day, the Japanese name of the fire- 
fly {hotaru) is ideographically composed with the 
sign for fire, doubled, above the sign for insect. 
The real origin of the word is nevertheless doubt- 
ful ; and various etymologies have been suggested. 
Some scholars think that the appellation anciently 
signified " the First-born of Fire " ; while others 
believe that it was first composed with syllables 
meaning "star" and "drop." The more poetical 
of the proposed derivations, I am sorry to say, are 
considered the least probable. But whatever may 
have been the primal meaning of the word hotaru, 
there can be no doubt as to the romantic quality of 
certain folk-names still given to the insect. 


Two species of firefly have a wide distribution 
in Japan ; and these have been popularly named 
Genji-botaru and Heike-botaru : that is to say, " the 
Minamoto-Firefly " and "the Taira-Firefly." A 
legend avers that these fireflies are the ghosts of 
the old Minamoto and Taira warriors ; that, 
even in their insect shapes, they remember the 
awful clan-struggle of the twelfth century ; and 
that once every year, on the night of the twentieth 
day of the fourth month,-^ they fight a great battle 
on the Uji River. Therefore, on that night all 
caged fireflies should be set free, in order that 
they may be able to take part in the contest. 

The Genji-botaru is the largest of Japanese fire- 
flies, — the largest species, at least, in Japan proper, 
not including the Loochoo Islands. It is found in 
almost every part of the country from Kyushu to 
Oshu. The Heik'e-botaru ranges further north, 
being especially common in Yezo ; but it is found 
also in the central and southern provinces. It is 
smaller than the Genji, and emits a feebler light. 

1 By the old calendar. According to the new calendar, the date of the Firefly 
Battle would be considerably later : last year (1901) it fell upon the tenth day of 
the sixth month. 


The fireflies commonly sold by insect-dealers in 
T6ky5, Osaka, Ky5t5, and other cities, are of the 
larger species. Japanese observers have described 
the light of both insects as " tea-coloured " {cha-iro), 
— the tint of the ordinary Japanese infusion, when 
the leaf is of good quality, being a clear greenish 
yellow. But the light of a fine Genji-firefly is so 
brilliant that only a keen eye can detect the greenish 
colour : at first sight the flash appears yellow as the 
flame of a wood-fire, and its vivid brightness has not 
been overpraised in the following hokku : — 

Kagaribi mo 
Hotaru mo hikaru — 
Genji kana ! 

" Whether it be a glimmering of festal-fires ^ [far away] , 
or a glimmering of fireflies, [one can hardly tell] — ah, it 
is the Genji ! " 

Although the appellations Genji-botaru and Heiki- 
botaru are still in general use, both insects are 

* The tcnn kagar-b'ty often translated by " bonfire," here especially refers to the 
little wood-fires which are kindled, on certain festival occasions, in front of every 
threshold in the principal street of a country town, or village. During the festival 
of the Bon such little fires are lighted in many parts of the country to welcome the 
returning ghosts. 


known by other folk-names. In different prov- 
inces the Genji is called 0-botaru^ or " Great Fire- 
fly " ; Ushi-botarUj or " Ox-Firefly " ; Kuma-botaru, 
or " Bear-Firefly " ; and Uji-botaru, or " Firefly of 
Uji," — not to mention such picturesque appella- 
tions as Komosb-botaru and Tamabuki-botaru, which 
could not be appreciated by the average Western 
reader. The Heike-botaru is also called Himi-botarUy 
or " Princess-Firefly " ; NennH-botarUy or " Baby- 
Firefly"; and Yur'ei-botaruy or "Ghost-Firefly." 
But these are only examples chosen at random : in 
almost every part of Japan there is a special folk- 
name for the insect. 


There are many places in Japan which are fa- 
mous for fireflies, — places which people visit in 
summer merely to enjoy the sight of the fireflies. 
Anciently the most celebrated of all such places was 
a little valley near Ishiyama, by the lake of Omi. 
It is still called Hotaru-Dani, or the Valley of 
Fireflies. Before the Period of Genroku (1688- 
1703), the swarming of the fireflies in this valley, 
during the sultry season, was accounted one of the 
natural marvels of the country. The fireflies of the 


Hotaru-Dani are still celebrated for their size ; but 
that wonderful swarming of them, which old writers 
described, is no longer to be seen there. At pres- 
ent the most famous place for fireflies is in the 
neighbourhood of Uji, in Yamashiro. Uji, a pretty 
little town in the centre of the celebrated tea-district, 
is situated on the Ujigawa, and is scarcely less famed 
for its fireflies than for its teas. Every summer 
special trains run from Ky5to and Osaka to Uji, 
bringing thousands of visitors to see the fireflies. 
But it is on the river, at a point several miles from 
the town, that the great spectacle is to be witnessed, 
— the Hotaru-Kassen, or Firefly Battle. The 
stream there winds between hills covered with 
vegetation ; and myriads of fireflies dart from either 
bank, to meet and cling above the water. At mo- 
ments they so swarm together as to form what 
appears to the eye like a luminous cloud, or like a 
great ball of sparks. The cloud soon scatters, or 
the ball drops and breaks upon the surface of the 
current, and the fallen fireflies drift glittering away ; 
but another swarm quickly collects in the same 
locality. People wait all night in boats upon the 
river to watch the phenomenon. After the Hotaru- 
Kassen is done, the Ujikawa, covered with the still 


sparkling bodies of the drifting insects, is said to 
appear like the Milky Way, or, as the Japanese 
more poetically call it, the River of Heaven. Per- 
haps it was after witnessing such a spectacle that the 
great female poet, Chiyo of Kaga, composed these 

verses : — 

Kawa bakari, 

Yami wa nagarete — ? 

Hotaru kana ! 

— Which may be thus freely rendered : — 

'' Is it the river only ? — or is the darkness itself 
drifting ? . . . Oh, the fireflies !..."! 


Many persons in Japan earn their living during 
the summer months by catching and selling fireflies : 
indeed, the extent of this business entitles it to 
be regarded as a special industry. The chief centre 
of this industry is the region about Ishiyama, in 
Goshij, by the Lake of Omi, — a number of 
houses there supplying fireflies to many parts of the 
country, and especially to the great cities of Osaka 

1 That is to say, " Do I see only fireflies drifting with the current ? or is the 
Night itself drifting, with its swarming of stars ?" 


and Kyoto. From sixty to seventy firefly-catchers 
are employed by each of the principal houses during 
the busy season. Some training is required for 
the occupation. A tyro might find it no easy 
matter to catch a hundred fireflies in a single night ; 
but an expert has been known to catch three thou- 
sand. The methods of capture, although of the 
simplest possible kind, are very interesting to see. 

Immediately after sunset, the firefly-hunter goes 
forth, with a long bamboo pole upon his shoulder, 
and a long bag of brown mosquito-netting wound, 
like a girdle, about his waist. When he reaches 
a wooded place frequented by fireflies, — usually 
some spot where willows are planted, on the bank 
of a river or lake, — he halts and watches the trees. 
As soon as the trees begin to twinkle satisfactorily, 
he gets his net ready, approaches the most luminous 
tree, and with his long pole strikes the branches. 
The fireflies, dislodged by the shock, do not im- 
mediately take flight, as more active insects would 
do under like circumstances, but drop helplessly 
to the ground, beetle-wise, where their light — 
always more brilliant in moments of fear or pain — 
renders them conspicuous. If suflfered to remain 
upon the ground for a few moments, they will 


fly away. But the catcher, picking them up with 
astonishing quickness, using both hands at once, 
deftly tosses them into his mouth — because he 
cannot lose the time required to put them, one 
by one, into the bag. Only when his mouth can 
hold no more, does he drop the fireflies, unharmed, 
into the netting. 

Thus the firefly-catcher works until about two 
o'clock in the morning, — the old Japanese hour 
of ghosts, — at which time the insects begin to 
leave the trees and seek the dewy soil. There 
they are said to bury their tails, so as to remain 
viewless. But now the hunter changes his tactics. 
Taking a bamboo broom he brushes the surface 
of the turf, lightly and quickly. Whenever touched 
or alarmed by the broom, the fireflies display their 
lanterns, and are immediately nipped and bagged. 
A little before dawn, the hunters return to town. 

At the firefly-shops the captured insects are 
sorted as soon as possible, according to the brilliancy 
of their light, — the more luminous being the 
higher-priced. Then they are put into gauze- 
covered boxes or cages, with a certain quantity of 
moistened grass in each cage. From one hundred 
to two hundred fireflies are placed in a single cage, 


according to grade. To these cages are attached 
small wooden tablets inscribed with the names of 
customers, — such as hotel proprietors, restaurant- 
keepers, wholesale and retail insect-merchants, and 
private persons who have ordered large quantities 
of fireflies for some particular festivity. The boxes 
are despatched to their destinations by nimble 
messengers, — for goods of this class cannot be 
safely intrusted to express companies. 

Great numbers of fireflies are ordered for display 
at evening parties in the summer season. A large 
Japanese guest-room usually overlooks a garden ; 
and during a banquet or other evening entertain- 
ment, given in the sultry season, it is customary to 
set fireflies at liberty in the garden after sunset, 
that the visitors may enjoy the sight of the spar- 
kling. Restaurant-keepers purchase largely. In the 
famous Dotombori of Osaka, there is a house where 
myriads of fireflies are kept in a large space enclosed 
by mosquito-netting ; and customers of this house 
are permitted to enter the enclosure and capture a 
certain number of fireflies to take home with them. 

The wholesale price of living fireflies ranges 
from three sen per hundred up to thirteen sen per 


hundred, according to season and quality. Retail 
dealers sell them in cages ; and in T5ky5 the 
price of a cage of fireflies ranges from three sen 
up to several dollars. The cheapest kind of cage, 
containing only three or four fireflies, is scarcely 
more than two inches square ; but the costly cages 
— veritable marvels of bamboo work, beautifully 
decorated — are as large as cages for song-birds. 
Firefly cages of charming or fantastic shapes — 
model houses, junks, temple-lanterns, etc. — can be 
bought at prices ranging from thirty sen up to 
one dollar. 

Dead or alive, fireflies are worth money. They 
are delicate insects, and they live but a short 
time in confinement. Great numbers die in the 
insect-shops ; and one celebrated insect-house is 
said to dispose every season of no less than five 
sho — that is to say, about one peck — of dead fire- 
flies, which are sold to manufacturing establish- 
ments in Osaka. Formerly fireflies were used 
much more than at present in the manufacture of 
poultices and pills, and in the preparation of drugs 
peculiar to the practice of Chinese medicine. 
Even to-day some curious extracts are obtained 
from them ; and one of these, called Hotaru-no- 


ahura^ or Firefly-grease, is still used by wood- 
workers for the purpose of imparting rigidity to 
objects made of bent bamboo. 

A very curious chapter on firefly-medicine might 
be written by somebody learned in the old-fash- 
ioned literature. The queerest part of the sub- 
ject is Chinese, and belongs much more to 
demonology than to therapeutics. Firefly-oint- 
ments used to be made which had power, it was 
alleged, to preserve a house from the attacks of 
robbers, to counteract the eff*ect of any poison, 
and to drive away " the hundred devils." And 
pills were made with firefly-substance which were 
believed to confer invulnerability ; — one kind of 
such pills being called Kanshogan, or " Commander- 
in-Chief Pills " ; and another, Buigan, or " Military- 
Power Pills." 

Firefly-catching, as a business, is comparatively 
modern; but firefly-hunting, as a diversion, is a 
very old custom. Anciently it was an aristocratic 
amusement; and great nobles used to give fire- 
fly-hunting parties, — hotaru-gari. In this busy 
era of Meiji the hotaru-gari is rather an amuse- 


ment for children than for grown-up folks ; but 
the latter occasionally find time to join in the 
sport. All over Japan, the children have their 
firefly-hunts every summer ; — moonless nights be- 
ing usually chosen for such expeditions. Girls 
follow the chase with paper fans ; boys, with long 
light poles, to the ends of which wisps of fresh 
bamboo-grass are tied. When struck down by a 
fan or a wisp, the insects are easily secured, as 
they are slow to take wing after having once been 
checked in actual flight. While hunting, the chil- 
dren sing little songs, supposed to attract the 
shining prey. These songs diff^er according to 
locality ; and the number of them is wonderful. 
But there are very few possessing that sort of in- 
terest which justifies quotation. Two examples 
will probably suflJce : — 

(Province of Choshu^ 

Hotaru, koi ! koi ! 
Koi-tomose ! 
Nippon ichi no " 
J5san ga, 

Chdchin tomoshite, 
Koi to ina 1 


Come, firefly, come ! Come with your light burning ! 
The nicest girl in Japan wants to know if you will not 
light your lantern and come ! 

{Dialect of Sbimonosiki.) 

Hochin, koi ! 
Hochin, koi ! 
Seki no machi no bon-san ga, 
Chochin tomoshite, 

Koi! ^ 


Firefly, come I firefly, come I All the boys of Seki 
[want you to come] with your lantern lighted I Come ! 
come ! 

Of course, in order to hunt fireflies successfully, 
it is necessary to know something about their 
habits ; and on this subject Japanese children are 
probably better informed than a majority of my 
readers, for whom the following notes may possess 
a novel interest : — 

Fireflies frequent the neighbourhood of water, 
and like to circle above it; but some kinds 
are repelled by impure or stagnant water, and 
are only to be found in the vicinity of clear 
streams or lakes. The Genji-firefly shuns swamps, 


ditches, or foul canals ; while the Heike-firefly 
seems to be satisfied with any water. All fire- 
flies seek by preference grassy banks shaded by 
trees ; but they dislike certain trees and are at- 
tracted by others. They avoid pine trees, for in- 
stance ; and they will not light upon rose-bushes. 
But upon willow trees — especially weeping wil- 
lows — they gather in great swarms. Occasionally, 
on a summer night, you may see a drooping wil- 
low so covered and illuminated with fireflies that 
all its branches appear " to be budding fire." Dur- 
ing a bright moonlight night fireflies keep as much 
as possible in shadow ; but when pursued they fly 
at once into the moonshine, where their shimmer- 
ing Is less easily perceived. Lamplight, or any 
strong artificial light, drives them away ; but small 
bright lights attract them. They can be lured, for 
example, by the sparkling of a small piece of 
lighted charcoal, or by the glow of a little Japanese 
pipe, kindled in the dark. But the lamping of a 
single lively firefly, confined in a bottle, or cup, of 
clear glass, is the best of all lures. 

As a rule the children hunt only in parties, for 
obvious reasons. In former years it would have 


been deemed foolhardy to go alone in pursuit of 
fireflies, because there existed certain uncanny be- 
liefs concerning them. And in some of the coun- 
try districts these beliefs still prevail. What appear 
to be fireflies may be malevolent spirits, or goblin- 
fires, or fox-lights, kindled to delude the wayfarer. 
Even real fireflies are not always to be trusted ; 
— the weirdness of their kinships might be inferred 
from their love of willow trees. Other trees have 
their particular spirits, good or evil, hamadryads or 
goblins ; but the willow is particularly the tree of 
the dead — the favourite of human ghosts. Any 
firefly may be a ghost — who can tell? Besides, 
there is an old belief that the soul of a person 
still alive may sometimes assume the shape of a 
firefly. And here is a little story that was told 
me in Izuno : — 

One cold winter's night a young shizoku of Mat- 
sue, while on his way home from a wedding-party, 
was surprised to perceive a firefly-light hovering 
above the canal in front of his dwelling. Wonder- 
ing that such an insect should be flying abroad in 
the season of snow, he stopped to look at it ; and 
the light suddenly shot toward him. He struck 


at it with a stick ; but it darted away, and flew into 
the garden of a residence adjoining his own. 

Next morning he made a visit to that house, 
intending to relate the adventure to his neighbours 
and friends. But before he found a chance to 
speak of it, the eldest daughter of the family, hap- 
pening to enter the guest-room without knowing 
of the young man's visit, uttered a cry of surprise, 
and exclaimed, " Oh ! how you startled me ! No 
one told me that you had called ; and just as I 
came in I was thinking about you. Last night 
I had so strange a dream ! I was flying in my 
dream, — flying above the canal in front of our 
house. It seemed very pleasant to fly over the 
water; and while I was flying there I saw you 
coming along the bank. Then I went to you to 
tell you that I had learned how to fly ; but you 
struck at me, and frightened me so that I still 
feel afraid when I think of it. . . ." After hear- 
ing this, the visitor thought it best not to relate 
his own experiertce for the time being, lest the 
coincidence should alarm the girl, to whom he was 



Fireflies have been celebrated in Japanese poetry 
from ancient time ; and frequent mention of them 
is made in early classical prose. One of the fifty- 
four chapters of the famous novel, Genji-Monogari^ 
for example, — written either toward the close of 
the tenth century or at the beginning of the 
eleventh, — is entitled, " Fireflies " ; and the author 
relates how a certain noble person was enabled to 
obtain one glimpse of a lady's face in the dark by 
the device of catching and suddenly liberating a 
number of fireflies. The first literary interest in 
fireflies may have been stimulated, if not aroused, 
by the study of Chinese poetry. Even to-day 
every Japanese child knows a little song about the 
famous Chinese scholar who, in the time of his 
struggles with poverty, studied by the light of a 
paper bag filled with fireflies. But, whatever the 
original source of their inspiration, Japanese poets 
have been making verses about fireflies during 
more than a thousand years. Compositions on the 
subject can be found in every form of Japanese 
poetry ; but the greater number of firefly poems 
are in hokku, — the briefest of all measures, consist- 


ing of only seventeen syllables. Modern love- 
poems relating to the firefly are legion ; but the 
majority of these, written in the popular twenty- 
six-syllable form called dodoitsu^ appear to consist 
of little more than variants of one old classic 
fancy, comparing the silent burning of the insect's 
light to the consuming passion that is never 

Perhaps my readers will be interested by the 
following selection of firefly poems. Some of the 
compositions are many centuries old : — 

Catching Fireflies 

Mayoi-go no 
Naku-naku tsukamu 
Hotaru kana ! 

Ah ! the lost child ! Though crying and crying, still he 
catches fireflies ! 

Kuraki yori 
Kuraki hito yobu : 
Hotaru kana ! 

Out of the blackness black people call [to each other] : 
[they are hunting] fireflies ! 


lu koto no 
Kikoete ya, takaku 
Tobu hotaru ! 

Ah ! having heard the voices of people [crying '* Catch 
it ! "] , the firefly now flies higher ! 

Owarete wa 
Tsuki ni kakururu 
Hotaru kana ! 

Ah, [the cunning] fireflies ! being chased, they hide 
themselves in the moonlight ! 

Hotaru kana ! 

[Two firefly-catchers] having tried to seize it [at the 
same time] , the poor firefly is trampled to death ! 

The Light of Fireflies 

Hotarubi ya! 

Mada kureyaranu, 

Hashi no uri. 

Fireflies already sparkling under the bridge, — and it is 
not yet dark ! 


Mizu-gusa no 
Kururu to miete 
Tobu hotaru. 

When the water-grasses appear to grow dark, the fireflies 
begin to fl:y.^ 

Oku-no-ma ye 
Hanashite mitaru 
Hotaru kana ! 

Pleasant, from the guest-room,^ to watch the fireflies 
being set free in the garden ! 

Yo no fukuru 
Hodo okinaru 
Hotaru kana ! 

Ever as the night grows [deeper, the light of] the firefly 
also grows [brighter] ! 

1 More literally : " The water-grasses having appeared to grow dark, the fireflies 
begin to fly." The phrase kururu to miete reminds one of the second stanza in 
that most remarkable of modern &iry-ballads, Mr. Yeats' " Folk of the Air" : — 
" And he saw how the weeds grew dark 
At the coming of night-tide ; 
And he dreamed of the long dim hair 
Of Bridget his bride. ' ' 

' Oku-no-ma really means the back room. But the best rooms in a Japanese 
house are always in the rear, and so arranged as to overlook the garden. The 
composer of the verse is supposed to be a guest at some banquet, during which 
fireflies arc set fi-ec in the garden that the visitors may enjoy the spectacle. 


Kusakari no 
Sode yori idzuru, 
Hotaru kana ! 
See ! a firefly flies out of the sleeve of the grass-cutter ! 

Koko kashiko, 

Hotaru ni aoshi 

Yoru no kusa. 

Here and there the night-grass appears green, because 
of the light of the fireflies. -^ 

Ch5chin no 

Kiyete, totoki 

Hotaru kana ! 

How precious seems [the light of] the firefly, now that 
the lantern-light has gone out ! 

Mado kuraki, 

Shoji wo noboru 

Hotaru kana ! 

The window itself is dark ; but see ! — a firefly is creep- 
ing up the paper pane ! 

Moe yasuku, 

Mata keye yasuki, 

Hotaru kana 1 

How easily kindled, and how easily put out again, is 
the light of the firefly ! 


Hitotsu kite, 
Niwa no tsuyukeki, 
Hotaru kana ! 

Oh ! a single firefly having come, one can see the 
dew in the garden ! 

Te no hira wo 
Hau ashi miyuru 
Hotaru kana ! 

Oh, this firefly ! — as it crawls on the palm of my 
hand, its legs are visible [by its own light] ! 

Osoroshi no 
Te ni sukit5ru, 
Hotaru kana ! 

It is enough to make one afraid ! See ! the light of this 
firefly shows through my hand ! ^ 

Sabeshisaya ! 
Isshaku kiyete 
Yuku hotaru ! 

How uncanny ! The firefly shoots to within a foot of 
me, and — out goes the light ! 

^ That is to say, makes the fingers appear diaphanous, as if held before a 
bright candle-flame. This suggestion of rosy semi-transparency implies a female 


Yuku saki no 

Sawani mono naki 

Hotaru kana! 

There goes a firefly ! but there is nothing in front of 
it to take hold of [nothing to touch : what can it be seek- 
ing — the ghostly creature ?] . 

Hoki-gi ni 
Ari to wa miyete, 
Hotaru kana! 

In this hoki-bush it certainly appeared to be, — the fire- 
fly ! [ but where is it ? ] 

Sode 6 kite, 

Y5han no hotaru 

Sabishi kana ! 

This midnight firefly coming upon the sleeve of my robe 
— how weird ^ ! . . . 

Yanagi-ba no 
Yami saki kaesu 
Hotaru kana ! 

For this willow tree the season of budding would seem 
to have returned in the dark — look at the fireflies ! 

^ The word sabishi usually signifies lonesome or melancholy ; but the sense of it 
here is "weird." This verse suggests the popular fancy that the soul of a person, 
living or dead, may assume the form of a firefly. 


Mizu soko no 

Kage wo kowagaru 

Hotaru kana ! 

Ah, he is afraid of the darkness under the water, — that 

firefly ! [ Therefore he lights his tiny lantern /] 

Sugitaru wa ! 
Me ni mono sugoshi 
Tobu hotaru ! 

Ah, I am going too far ! . . . The flitting of the fire- 
flies here is a lonesome sight ! 

Hotarubi ya ! 
Kusa ni osamaru 

Ah, the firefly-lights ! As the darkness begins to break, 
they bury themselves in the grass. 


Mureyo, hotaru. 
Mono iu kao no 
Miyuru hodo ! 

fireflies, gather here long enough to make visible the 
face of the person who says these things to me ! ^ 

1 The speaker is supposed to be a woman. Somebody has been making love to 
her in the dark ; and she half doubts the sincerity of the professed affection. 


Oto mo sede, 
Omoi ni moyuru, 

Hotaru koso, 

Naku mushi yori mo 

Aware nari-keri ! 

Not making even a sound [yet] burning with desire, — 
for this the firefly indeed has become more worthy of pity 
than any insect that cries ! ^ 

Yu sareba, 
Hotaru yori ki ni 


Hikari mineba ya 

Hito no tsurenaki ! 

When evening falls, though the soul of me burn more 
than burns the firefly, as the light [of that burning] is 
viewless, the person [beloved] remains unmoved.^ 


Suito yuku, 
Mizu-gi wa suzushi, 
Tobu-hotaru ! 

Here at the water's edge, how pleasantly cool ! — and 
the fireflies go shooting by — suito ! 

1 From the Fugetsu-Sh'u. The speaker is a woman : by the simile of the 
silent-glowing firefly she suggests her own secret love. 

2 From the Kokon Wakasbu Enkyo. The speaker is supposed to be a woman. 


Midzu e kite, 
Hikuu naritaru 
Hotaru kana ! 

Having reached the water, he makes himself low, — the 
firefly ! i 

Kuzu no ha no 
Ura, utsu ame ya, 
Tobu-hotaru ! 

The rain beats upon the Kuzu-phnt ; ^ — away starts the 
firefly from the underside of the leaf! 

Ame no yo wa, 
Shita bakari yuku 
Hotaru kana ! 

Ah ! this rainy night they only go along the ground, — 
the fireflies ! 

Yura-yura to 
Ko-ame furu yo no 
Hotaru kana ! 

How they swing themselves, to and fro, the fireflies, on 
a night of drizzling rain ! 

1 Or, " he stoops low." The word biiui really means low of stature. 

2 A kind of arrowroot. 


Kusa nomi zo 

With the coming of dawn, indeed, there is nothing visi- 
ble but grass in the cage of the firefly ! 

Yo ga akete, 

Mushi ni naritaru 

Hotaru kana ! 

With the coming of the dawn, they change into insects 
again, — these fireflies ! 

Hiru mireba, 
Kubi-suji akaki 
Hotaru kana ! 

Oh, this firefly ! — seen by daylight, the nape of its neck 
is red ! 

Hotaru kote, 

Shiba shi-go-mai ni 

Fuzei kana ! 

Having bought fireflies, respectfully accord them the 
favour of four or five tufts of lawn-grass ! ^ 

1 Not literal ; and I doubt whether this poem could be satisfectorily translated 
into English. There is a delicate humour in the use of the word fu%ei^ used in 
speaking humbly of one's self, or of one's endeavours to please a superior. 


Song of the Firefly-seller 
Futatsu, mitsu, 
Hanashite misenu 

Mitsu, yotsu wa, 
Akari ni nokose 

Onega mi wa 
Yami ni kaeru ya 

He will not give you the chance to see two or three 
fireflies set free, — this firefly-seller. 

He leaves in the cage three or four, just to make a light, 
— this firefly-seller. 

For now he must take his own body back into the dark 
night, — this firefly-seller. 


But the true romance of the firefly is to be found 
neither in the strange fields of Japanese folk-lore 
nor in the quaint gardens of Japanese poetry, but 
in the vast profound of science. About science 
I know little or nothing. And that is why I am 
not afraid to rush in where angels fear to tread. If 


I knew what Professor Watase knows about fire- 
flies, I should feel myself less free to cross the 
boundaries of relative experience. As it is, I can 
venture theories. 

The tremendous hypotheses of physical and 
psychical evolution no longer seem to me hypothe- 
ses : I should never dream of doubting them. I 
have ceased to wonder at the growth of Life out of 
that which has been called not-living, — the devel- 
opment of organic out of inorganic existence. The 
one amazing fact of organic evolution, to which my 
imagination cannot become accustomed, is the fact 
that the substance of life should possess the latent 
capacity or tendency to build itself into complexi- 
ties incomprehensible of systematic structure. The 
power of that substance to evolve radiance or elec- 
tricity is not really more extraordinary than its 
power to evolve colour; and that a noctiluca, or 
a luminous centipede, or a firefly, should produce 
light, ought not to seem more wonderful than that 
a plant should produce blue or purple flowers. But 
the biological interpretation of the phenomenon 
leaves me wondering, just as much as before, at the 
particular miracle of the machinery by which the 


light is made. To find embedded in the body of 
the insect a microscopic working-model of every- 
thing comprised under the technical designation of 
an " electric plant," would not be nearly so wonder- 
ful a discovery as the discovery of what actually 
exists. Here is a firefly, able, with its infinitesimal 
dynamo, to produce a pure cold light " at one four- 
hundredth part of the cost of the energy expended 
in a candle flame " ! . . . Now why should there 
have been evolved in the tail of this tiny creature 
a luminiferous mechanism at once so elaborate and 
so effective that our greatest physiologists and 
chemists are still unable to understand the opera- 
tion of it, and our best electricians impotent to con- 
ceive the possibility of imitating it? Why should 
the living tissues crystallize or build themselves 
into structures of such stupefying intricacy and 
beauty as the visual organs of an ephemera, the 
electrical organs of a gymnotus, or the luminiferous 
organs of a firefly ? . . . The very wonder of the 
thing forbids me to imagine gods at work : no mere 
god could ever contrive such a prodigy as the eye 
of a May-fly or the tail of a firefly. 

Biology would answer thus : — " Though it is 
inconceivable that a structure like this should have 



been produced by accumulated effects of function 
on structure, yet it is conceivable that successive 
selections of favourable variations might have pro- 
duced it." And no follower of Herbert Spencer is 
really justified in wandering further. But I cannot 
rid myself of the notion that Matter, in some blind 

infallible way, 
and that in 
living sub- 
slumber infi- 
ities, simply 
every ultimate 
the infinite 
tible experi- 
ions of bill- 
ished uni- 

remembers ; 
every unit of 
stance there 
nite potential- 
because to 
atom belongs 
and indestruc- 
ence of bill- 
ions of van- 

A Drop of Dew 

Tsuyu no inochi. 

— Buddhist proverb. 


:..•■, • ^cs:src»>'<22>54- 

A Drop of Dew 

TO the bamboo lattice of my study-window 
a single dewdrop hangs quivering. 

Its tiny sphere repeats the colours of the 
morning, — colours of sky and field and far-off trees. 
Inverted images of these can be discerned in it, — 
also the microscopic picture of a cottage, upside 
down, with children at play before the door. 

Much more than the visible world is imaged by 
that dewdrop : the world invisible, of infinite mys- 
tery, is likewise therein repeated. And without as 
within the drop there is motion unceasing, — motion 
forever incomprehensible of atoms and forces, — 
faint shiverings also, making prismatic reply to 
touches of air and sun. 

Buddhism finds in such a dewdrop the symbol 
of that other microcosm which has been called the 
Soul. . . . What more, indeed, is man than just 
such a temporary orbing of viewless ultimates, — 
imaging sky and land and life, — filled with per- 



petual mysterious shudderings, — and responding in 
some wise to every stir of the ghostly forces that 
environ him ? . . . 

Soon that tiny globe of light, with all its fairy 
tints and topsy-turvy picturings, will have vanished 
away. Even so, within another little while, you 
and I must likewise dissolve and disappear. 

Between the vanishing of the drop and the van- 
ishing of the man, what difference ? A difference 
of words. . . . But ask yourself what becomes of 
the dewdrop ? 

By the great sun Its atoms are separated and 
lifted and scattered. To cloud and earth, to river 
and sea they go ; and out of land and stream and 
sea again they will be updrawn, only to fall and to 
scatter anew. They will creep in opalescent mists ; 
— they will whiten in frost and hail and snow ; — 
they will reflect again the forms and the colours of 
the macrocosm ; they will throb to the ruby 
pulsing of hearts that are yet unborn. For each 
one of them must combine again with countless 
kindred atoms for the making of other drops, — 
drops of dew and rain and sap, of blood and 
sweat and tears. . . , 



How many times ? Billions of ages before our 
sun began to burn, those atoms probably moved in 
other drops, reflecting the sky-tints and the earth- 
colours of worlds in some past universe. And after 
this present universe shall have vanished out of 
Space, those very same atoms — by virtue of the 
forces incomprehensible that made them — will 
probably continue to sphere in dews that will 
shadow the morning beauty of planets yet to be. 

Even so with the particles of that composite 
which you term your very Self. Before the hosts 
of heaven the atoms of you were — and thrilled, 
— and quickened, — and reflected appearances of 
things. And when all the stars of the visible 
Night shall have burnt themselves out, those atoms 
will doubtless again take part in the orbing of 
Mind, — will tremble again in thoughts, emotions, 
memories, — in all the joys and pains of lives still 
to be lived in worlds still to be evolved. ... ^ 

Your personality ? — your peculiarity ? That 
is to say, your ideas, sentiments, recollections ? — 
your very particular hopes and fears and loves and 
hates ? Why, in each of a trillion of dewdrops 



there must be differences infinitesimal of atom- 
thrilling and of reflection. And in every one of 
the countless pearls of ghostly vapour updrawn from 
the Sea of Birth and Death there are like infinitesi- 
mal peculiarities. Your personality signifies, in the 

eternal order, 
as the especial 
molecules in 
of any single 
in no other 
thrilling and 
be ever ex- 
same; but the 
continue to 
fall, and there 
quivering pic- 
very delusion 
is the idea of 

just as much 
motion of 
the shivering 
drop. Perhaps 
drop will the 
the picturing 
actly the 
dews will 
gather and to 
will always be 

tures The 

of delusions 
death as loss. 

\ There is no loss — because there is not any Self 
that can be lost. Whatsoever was, that you have 
been; — whatsoever is, that you are; — whatsoever 
will be, that you must become. Personality! — 
individuality ! — the ghosts of a dream in a dream ! 
Life infinite only there is ; and all that appears to 
be is but the thrilling of it, — sun, moon, and stars. 


— earth, sky, and sea, — and Mind and Man, and 
Space and Time. All of them are shadows. The 
shadows come and go ; — the Shadow-Maker shapes 


i%'-i^ . yfii^ i. ;\- . ,' , ^r . l:rr .. :'.,: . ^f , '^^ i ^ 


— " Venerable Nagasena, are there such things as demons in the world ? '* 

— "Yes, O King." 

— "Do they ever leave that condition of existence ? '* 

— "Yes, they do." 

— "But, if so, why is it that the remains of those demons are never 
found ? " . . . 

— "Their remains are found, O King. . . . The remains of bad demons 

can be found in the form of worms and beetles and ants and snakes and scorpions 

and centipedes." . . . 

— Tbe Siuestions of King Milinda. 


THERE are moments in life when truths 
but dimly known before — beliefs first 
vaguely reached through multiple pro- 
cesses of reasoning — suddenly assume the vivid 
character of emotional convictions. Such an ex- 
perience came to me the other day, on the Suruga 
coast. While resting under the pines that fringed 
the beach, something in the vital warmth and lu- 
minous peace of the hour — some quivering rap- 
ture of wind and light — very strangely bestirred 
an old belief of mine : the belief that all being 


i82 GAKI 

is One. One I felt myself to be with the thrilling 
of breeze and the racing of wave, — with every flut- 
ter of shadow and flicker of sun, — with the azure 
of sky and sea, — with the great green hush of the 
land. In some new and wonderful way I found 
myself assured that there never could have been 
a beginning, — that there never could be an end. 
Nevertheless, the ideas of the moment were not 
new : the novelty of the experience was altogether 
in the peculiar intensity with which they presented 
themselves ; making me feel that the flashing 
dragon-flies, and the long gray sand-crickets, and 
the shrilling semi overhead, and the little red 
crabs astir under the roots of the pines, were all 
of them brothers and sisters. I seemed to under- 
stand, as never before, how the mystery that is 
called the Soul of me must have quickened in 
every form of past existence, and must as cer- 
tainly continue to behold the sun, for other mill- 
ions of summers, through eyes of other countless 
shapes of future being. And I tried to think the 
long slow thoughts of the long gray crickets, — and 
the thoughts of the darting, shimmering dragon- 
flies, — and the thoughts of the basking, trilling cic- 
adae, — and the thoughts of the wicked little crabs 

GAKI 183 

that lifted up their claws from between the roots 
of the pines. 

Presently I discovered myself wondering whether 
the consequence of such thoughts could have any- 
thing to do with the recombination of my soul- 
dust in future spheres of existence. For thousands 
of years the East has been teaching that what we 
think or do in this life really decides, — through 
some inevitable formation of atom-tendencies, or 
polarities, — the future place of our substance, and 
the future state of our sentiency. And the belief 
is worth thinking about — though no amount of 
thinking can enable us either to confirm or to 
disprove it. Very possibly, like other Buddhist 
doctrines, it may adumbrate some cosmic truth ; 
but its literal assertions I doubt, because I must 
doubt the power ascribed to thought. By the 
whole infinite past I have been moulded, within 
and without: how should the impulse of a mo- 
ment reshape me against the weight of the eter- 
nities ? . . . Buddhism indeed answers how, and 
that astounding answer is irrefutable, — but I 
doubt. . . . 

Anyhow, acts and thoughts, according to Buddh- 
ist doctrine, are creative. Visible matter is made 

i84 GAKI 

by acts and thoughts, — even the universe of stars, 
and all that has form and name, and all the con- 
ditions of existence. What we think or do is 
never for the moment only, but for measureless 
time : it signifies some force directed to the shap- 
ing of worlds, — to the making of future bliss or 
pain. Remembering this, we may raise ourselves 
to the zones of the Gods. Ignoring it, we may 
deprive ourselves even of the right to be reborn 
among men, and may doom ourselves, though 
innocent of the crimes that cause rebirth in hell, 
to reenter existence in the form of animals, or of 
insects, or of goblins, — gaki} 

So it depends upon ourselves whether we are 
to become insects or goblins hereafter ; and in 
the Buddhist system the difference between insects 
and goblins is not so well defined as might be 
supposed. The belief in a mysterious relation 
between ghosts and insects, or rather between spirits 
and insects, is a very ancient belief in the East, 
where it now assumes innumerable forms, — some 
unspeakably horrible, others full of weird beauty. 

1 The word gaki is the Japanese Buddhist rendering of the Sanscrit term 
"preta," signifying a spirit in that circle or state of torment called the World of 
Hungry Ghosts. 

GAKI ■ 185 

" The White Moth " of Mr. Quiller-Couch would 
not impress a Japanese reader as novel ; for the 
night-moth or the butterfly figures in many a 
Japanese poem and legend as the soul of a lost 
wife. The night-cricket's thin lament is perhaps 
the sorrowing of a voice once human ; — the strange 
red marks upon the heads of cicadas are characters 
of spirit-names ; — dragon-flies and grasshoppers 
are the horses of the dead. All these are to be 
pitied with the pity that is kin to love. But the 
noxious and dangerous insects represent the results 
of another quality of karma, — that which produces 
goblins and demons. Grisly names have been 
given to some of these insects, — as, for example, 
Jigokumushij or " Hell-insect," to the ant-lion ; and 
Kappa-mushi^ to a gigantic water-beetle which seizes 
frogs and fish, and devours them alive, thus realiz- 
ing, in a microcosmic way, the hideous myth of 
the Kappa^ or River-goblin. Flies, on the other 
hand, are especially identified with the world of 
hungry ghosts. How often, in the season of flies, 
have I heard some persecuted toiler exclaim, " Kyb 
no hai wa, gaki no yo da n'e ? " (The flies to-day, 
how like gaki they are ! ) 

1 86 GAKI 


In the old Japanese, or, more correctly speaking, 
Chinese Buddhist literature relating to the gaki, 
the Sanscrit names of the gaki are given in a 
majority of cases; but some classes of gaki described 
have only Chinese names. As the Indian belief 
reached Japan by way of China and Korea, it is 
likely to have received a peculiar colouring in the 
course of its journey. But, in a general way, the 
Japanese classification of gaki corresponds closely 
to the Indian classification of the pretas. 

The place of gaki in the Buddhist system is 
but one degree removed from the region of the 
hells, or Jigokudo, — the lowest of all the States of 
Existence. Above the Jigokudo is the Gakidoj or 
World of Hungry Spirits; above the Gakido is 
the Chikushodby or World of Animals ; and above 
this, again, is the Shurado^ a region of perpetual 
fighting and slaughter. Higher than these is placed 
the Ningendo, or World of Mankind. 

Now a person released from hell, by exhaustion 
of the karma that sent him there, is seldom reborn 
at once into the zone of human existence, but must 
patiently work his way upward thither, through all 


GAKI 187 

the intermediate states of being. Many of the 
gaki have been in hell. 

But there are gaki also who have not been in 
hell. Certain kinds or degrees of sin may cause 
a person to be reborn as a gaki immediately after 
having died in this world. Only the greatest 
degree of sin condemns the sinner directly to hell. 
The second degree degrades him to the Gakido. 
The third causes him to be reborn as an animal. 

Japanese Buddhism recognizes thirty-six principal 
classes of gaki. " Roughly counting," says the 
Sh~ob~o-nen-jo-kydy " we find thirty-six classes of gaki ; 
but should we attempt to distinguish all the differ- 
ent varieties, we should find them to be innumera- 
ble." The thirty-six classes form two great divisions, 
or orders. One comprises all " Gaki-World-dwell- 
ers " {Gaki-Sekai-fu) ; — that is to say, all Hungry 
Spirits who remain in the Gakid5 proper, and are, 
therefore, never seen by mankind. The other 
division is called Nin-chu-'Ju, or " Dwellers among 
men " : these gaki remain always in this world, 
and are sometimes seen. 

There is yet another classification of gaki, accord- 
ing to the character of their penitential torment. 

i88 GAKI 

All gaki suffer hunger and thirst; but there are 
three degrees of this suffering. The Muzai-gaki 
represent the first degree : they must hunger and 
thirst uninterruptedly, without obtaining any nour- 
ishment whatever. The Shozai-gaki suffer only in 
the second degree : they are able to feed occasion- 
ally upon impure substances. The Usai-gaki are 
more fortunate : they can eat such remains of food 
as are thrown away by men, and also the offerings 
of food set before the images of the gods, or before 
the tablets of the ancestors. The last two classes of 
gaki are especially interesting, because they are sup- 
posed to meddle with human affairs. 

Before modern science introduced exact know- 
ledge of the nature and cause of certain diseases, 
Buddhists explained the symptoms of such diseases 
by the hypothesis of gaki. Certain kinds of inter- 
mittent fever, for example, were said to be caused by 
a gaki entering the human body for the sake of 
nourishment and warmth. At first the patient 
would shiver with cold, because the gaki was cold. 
Then, as the gaki gradually became warm, the chill 
would pass, to be succeeded by a burning heat. At 
last the satiated haunter would go away, and the 

GAKI 189 

fever disappear ; but upon another day, and usually 
at an hour corresponding to that of the first attack, 
a second fit of ague would announce the return of 
the gakl. Other zymotic disorders could be equally 
well explained as due to the action of gaki. 

In the Shbb~o-nen-fo-kyo a majority of the thirty- 
six kinds of gaki are associated with putrescence, 
disease, and death. Others are plainly identified 
with insects. No particular kind of gaki is identi- 
fied by name with any particular kind of insect ; 
but the descriptions suggest conditions of insect- 
life ; and such suggestions are reenforced by a 
knowledge of popular superstitions. Perhaps the 
descriptions are vague in the case of such spirits 
as the Jiki-ketsu-gaki, or Blood-suckers ; the Jiki- 
niku-gaki, or Flesh-eaters ; the Jiki-da-gakiy or 
* * * * * *-eaters ; the Jiki-fun-gaki, or ****-eaters; 
the Jiki-doku-gaki, or Poison-eaters ; the Jiki-fu- 
gakiy or Wind-eaters ; the Jiki-ke-gakiy or Smell- 
eaters ; the Jiki-kwa-gaki, or Fire-eaters (perhaps 
they fly into lamps ?) ; the Sbikko-gaki, who devour 
corpses and cause pestilence ; the Shinen-gakiy who 
appear by night as wandering fires ; the Shin-ko- 
gakiy or Needle-mouthed ; and the Kwaku-shin-gaki, 

190 GAKI 

or Cauldron-bodied, — each a living furnace, filled 
with flame that keeps the fluids of its body hum- 
ming like a boiling pot. But the suggestion of 
the following excerpts^ will not be found at all 
obscure : — 

^^Jiki-man-gaki. — These gaki can live only by eating 
the wigs of false hair with which the statues of certain 
divinities are decorated. . . . Such will be the future con- 
dition of persons who steal objects of value from Buddhist 

" Fujo-ko-hyaku-gaki. — These gaki can eat only street 
filth and refuse. Such a condition is the consequence of 
having given putrid or unwholesome food to priests or 
nuns, or pilgrims in need of alms. 

" Cho-ken-ju-jiki-netsu-gaki. — These are the eaters of the 
refuse of funeral-pyres and of the clay of graves. . . . 
They are the spirits of men who despoiled Buddhist tem- 
ples for the sake of gain. 

'■^Ju-chu-gaki. — These spirits are born within the wood 
of trees, and are tormented by the growing of the grain. 
. . . Their condition is the result of having cut down 
shade-trees for the purpose of selling the timber. Persons 
who cut down the trees in Buddhist cemeteries or temple- 
grounds are especially likely to become Ju-chu-gaki." ^ 

1 Abridged from the Sbobd-nen-jo-Kyd. A full translation of the extraordinary 
chapter relating to the gaki would try the reader's nerves rather severely. 

2 The following story of a tree-spirit is typical : — 

In the garden of a Samurai named Satsuma Shichizaemon, who lived in the 
village of Echigawa in the province of Omi, there was a very old inoki. (The 


GAKI 191 

Moths, flies, beetles, grubs, worms, and other 
unpleasant creatures seem thus to be indicated. 
But some kinds of gaki cannot be identified with 
insects, — for example, the species called Jiki-ho- 
gakiy or " Doctrine-eaters." These can exist only 
by hearing the preaching of the Law of the Bud- 
dha in some temple. While they hear such 
preaching, their torment is assuaged ; but at all 

enoki, or " Celtis chinensis," is commonly thought to be a goblin-tree.) From 
ancient times the ancestors of the family had been careful never to cut a branch 
of this tree or to remove any of its leaves. But Shichizaemon, who was very self- 
willed, one day announced that he intended to have the tree cut down. During 
the following night a monstrous being appeared to the mother of Shichizaemon, in 
a dream, and told her that if the enoki were cut down, every member of the house- 
hold should die. But when this warning was communicated to Shichizaemon, he 
only laughed ; and he then sent a man to cut down the tree. No sooner had it 
been cut down than Shichizaemon became violently insane. For several days he 
remained furiously mad, crying out at intervals, ' ' The tree ! the tree ! the tree ! ' * 
He said that the tree put out its branches, like hands, to tear him. In this condi- 
tion he died. Soon afterward his wife went mad, crying out that the tree was 
killing her ; and she died screaming with fear. One after another, all the people 
in that house, not excepting the servants, went mad and died. The dwelling long 
remained unoccupied thereafter, no one daring even to enter the garden. At last it 
was remembered that before these things happened a daughter of the Satsuma family 
had become a Buddhist nun, and that she was still living, under the name of Jikun, 
in a temple at Yamashiro. This nun was sent for ; and by request of the villagers 
she took up her residence in the house, where she continued to live until the time 
of her death, — daily reciting a special service on behalf of the spirit that had dwelt 
in the tree. From the time that she began to live in the house the tree-spirit 
ceased to give trouble. This story is related on the authority of the priest Shungyo, 
who said that he had heard it from the lips of the nun herself. 

192 GAKI 

other times they suffer agonies unspeakable. To 
this condition are liable after death all Buddhist 
priests or nuns who proclaim the law for the 
mere purpose of making money. . . . Also 
there are gaki who appear sometimes in beauti- 
ful human shapes. Such are the Toku-shiki-gaki, 
spirits of lewdness, — corresponding in some sort 
to the incubi and succubi of our own Middle Ages. 
They can change their sex at will, and can make 
their bodies as large or as small as they please. 
It is impossible to exclude them from any dwell- 
ing, except by the use of holy charms and spells, 
since they are able to pass through an orifice 
even smaller than the eye of a needle. To se- 
duce young men, they assume beautiful feminine 
shapes, — often appearing at wine parties as wait- 
resses or dancing girls. To seduce women they 
take the form of handsome lads. This state of 
Toku-shiki-gaki is a consequence of lust in some 
previous human existence ; but the supernatural 
powers belonging to their condition are results 
of meritorious Karma which the evil Karma could 
not wholly counterbalance. 

Even concerning the Toku-shiki-gaki^ however, 
it is plainly stated that they may take the form 


GAKI 193 

of insects. Though wont to appear in human 
shape, they can assume the shape of any animal 
or other creature, and " fly freely in all directions 
of space," — or keep their bodies " so small that 
mankind cannot see them. . . ." All insects are 
not necessarily gaki ; but most gaki can assume 
the form of insects when it serves their purpose. 


Grotesque as these beliefs now seem to us, it 
was not unnatural that ancient Eastern fancy 
should associate insects with ghosts and devils. 
In our visible world there are no other creatures 
so wonderful and so mysterious ; and the true 
history of certain insects actually realizes the 
dreams of mythology. To the minds of primi- 
tive men, the mere facts of insect-metamorphosis 
must have seemed uncanny ; and what but gob- 
linry or magic could account for the monstrous 
existence of beings so similar to dead leaves, or 
to flowers, or to joints of grass, that the keenest 
human sight could detect their presence only 
when they began to walk or to fly? Even for 
the entomologist of to-day, insects remain the 

194 GAKI 

most incomprehensible of creatures. We have 
learned from him that they must be acknowledged 
" the most successful of organized beings " in the 
battle for existence ; — that the delicacy and the 
complexity of their structures surpass anything ever 
imagined of marvellous before the age of the 
microscope ; — that their senses so far exceed our 
own in refinement as to prove us deaf and blind 
by comparison. Nevertheless the insect world 
remains a world of hopeless enigmas. Who can 
explain for us the mystery of the eyes of a myriad 
facets, or the secret of the ocular brains connected 
with them ? Do those astounding eyes perceive 
the ultimate structure of matter ? does their vision 
pierce opacity, after the manner of the Rontgen 
rays ? (Or how interpret the deadly aim of that 
ichneumon-fly which plunges its ovipositor through 
solid wood to reach the grub embedded in the 
grain ?) What, again, of those marvellous ears 
in breasts and thighs and knees and feet, — ears 
that hear sounds beyond the limit of human audi- 
tion? and what of the musical structures evolved 
to produce such fairy melody ? What of the 
ghostly feet that walk upon flowing water ? What 
of the chemistry that kindles the firefly's lamp, — 

GAKI 195 

making the cold and beautiful light that all our 
electric science cannot imitate ? And those newly 
discovered, incomparably delicate organs for which 
we have yet no name, because our wisest cannot 
decide the nature of them — do they really, as 
some would suggest, keep the insect-mind in- 
formed of things unknown to human sense, — visi- 
bilities of magnetism, odours of light, tastes of 
sound ? . . . Even the little that we have been 
able to learn about insects fills us with the wonder 
that is akin to fear. The lips that are hands, 
and the horns that are eyes, and the tongues that 
are drills ; the multiple devilish mouths that 
move in four ways at once ; the living scissors 
and saws and boring-pumps and brace-bits ; the 
exquisite elfish weapons which no human skill 
can copy, even in the finest watch-spring steel — 
what superstition of old ever dreamed of sights 
like these? Indeed, all that nightmare ever con- 
ceived of faceless horror, and all that ecstasy 
ever imagined of phantasmal pulchritude, can 
appear but vapid and void by comparison with 
the stupefying facts of entomology. But there 
is something spectral, something alarming, in the 
very beauty of insects. . . . 

196 GAKI 


Whether gaki do or do not exist, there is at least 
some shadowing of truth in the Eastern belief that 
the dead become insects. Undoubtedly our human 
dust must help, over and over again for millions 
of ages, to build up numberless weird shapes of 
life. But as to that question of my revery under 
the pine trees, — whether present acts and thoughts 
can have anything to do with the future distribu- 
tion and requickening of that dust, — whether hu- 
man conduct can of itself predetermine the shapes 
into which human atoms will be recast, — no reply 
is possible. I doubt — but I do not know. 
Neither does anybody else. 

Supposing, however, that the order of the uni- 
verse were really as Buddhists believe, and that I 
knew myself foredoomed, by reason of stupidities 
in this existence, to live hereafter the life of an 
insect, I am not sure that the prospect would 
frighten me. There are insects of which it is diffi- 
cult to think with equanimity ; but the state of an 
independent, highly organized, respectable insect 
could not be so very bad. I should even look 
forward, with some pleasurable curiosity, to any 

GAKI 197 

chance of viewing the world through the marvellous 
compound eyes of a beetle, an ephemera, or a 
dragon-fly. As an ephemera, indeed, I might enjoy 
the possession of three different kinds of eyes, and 
the power to see colours now totally unimaginable. 
Estimated in degrees of human time, my life would 
be short, — a single summer day would include the 
best part of it ; but to ephemeral consciousness a 
few minutes would appear a season ; and my one 
day of winged existence — barring possible mishaps 
— would be one unwearied joy of dancing in golden 
air. And I could feel in my winged state neither 
hunger nor thirst, — having no real mouth or 
stomach : I should be, in very truth, a Wind-eater. 
. . . Nor should I fear to enter upon the much 
less ethereal condition of a dragon-fly. I should 
then have to bear carnivorous hunger, and to hunt 
a great deal ; but even dragon-flies, after the fierce 
joy of the chase, can indulge themselves in solitary 
meditation. Besides, what wings would then be 
mine ! — and what eyes ! . . . I could pleasurably 
anticipate even the certainty of becoming an 
AmemUo^ and so being able to run and to slide 

^ A water-insect, much resembling what we call a * ' skater. ' ' In some parts 
of the country it is said that the boy who wants to become a good swimmer must 
eat the legs of an Amembo. 



upon water — though children might catch me, and 
bite off my long fine legs. But I think that I 
should better enjoy the existence of a semiy — a 
large and lazy cicada, basking on wind-rocked trees, 
sipping only dew, and singing from dawn till dusk. 

Of course 
be perils to 
danger from 
crows and 
danger from 
prey — dan- 
boos tipped 
by naughty 
But in every 
life there must 
in spite of 
imagine that 
tered little 

there would 
encounter, — 
hawks and 
sparrows, — 
insects of 
with birdlime 
little boys, 
condition of 
be risks ; and 
the risks, I 
Anacreon ut- 
more than 

the truth, in his praise of the cicada : " O thou 
earth-born i — song-loving^ — free from pain, — having 
flesh without blood, — thou art nearly equal to the 
Gods ! " . . . In fact I have not been able to 
convince myself that it is really an inestimable 
privilege to be reborn a human being. And 
if the thinking of this thought, and the act of 

GAKI 199 

writing it down, must inevitably affect my next 
rebirth, then let me hope that the state to which 
I am destined will not be worse than that of a 
cicada or of a dragon-fly ; — climbing the cryp- 
tomerias to clash my tiny cymbals in the sun, — or 
haunting, with soundless flicker of amethyst and 
gold, some holy silence of lotos-pools. 

A Matter of Custom 


A Matter of Custom 

THERE is a nice old priest of the Zen sect, 
— past-master in the craft of arranging 
flowers, and in other arts of the ancient 
time, — who comes occasionally to see me. He is 
loved by his congregation, though he preaches 
against many old-fashioned beliefs, and discour- 
ages all faith in omens and dreams, and tells peo- 
ple to believe only in the Law of the Buddha. 
Priests of the Zen persuasion are seldom thus 
sceptical. But the scepticism of my friend is not 
absolute; for the last time that we met we talked 
of the dead, and he told me something creepy. 

" Stories of spirits or ghosts," he said, " I always 
doubt. Sometimes a danka^ comes to tell me 
about having seen a ghost, or having dreamed a 
strange dream ; but whenever I question such a 

^ Danka or danki agnifies the parishioner of a Buddhist temple. Those who 
regularly contribute to the support of a Shinto temple are called Ujiko. 



person carefully, I find that the matter can be 
explained in a natural way. 

" Only once in my life I had a queer experience 
which I could not easily explain. I was then in 
Kyushu, — a young novice ; and I was performing 
my gyo, — the pilgrimage that every novice has to 
make. One evening, while travelling through a 
mountain-district, I reached a little village where 
there was a temple of the Zen sect. I went there 
to ask for lodging, according to our rules ; but I 
found that the priest had gone to attend a funeral at 
a village several miles away, leaving an old nun in 
charge of the temple. The nun said that she could 
not receive me during the absence of the priest, and 
that he would not come back for seven days. . . . 
In that part of the country, a priest was required by 
custom to recite the sutras and to perform a Buddh- 
ist service, every day for seven days, in the house 
of a dead parishioner. ... I said that I did not 
want any food, but only a place to sleep : moreover 
I pleaded that I was very tired, and at last the 
old nun took pity on me. She spread some quilts 
for me in the temple, near the altar; and I fell 
asleep almost as soon as I lay down. In the mid- 
dle of the night — a very cold night ! — I was 


awakened by the tapping of a mokugyo^ and the 
voice of somebody chanting the NemhutsUy close 
to where I was lying. I opened my eyes ; but the 
temple was utterly dark, — so dark that if a man 
had seized me by the nose I could not have seen 
him \hana wo tsumarHe mo wakaranai] ; and I 
wondered that anybody should be tapping the 
mokugyo and chanting in such darkness. But, 
though the sounds seemed at first to be quite near 
me, they were somewhat faint ; and I tried to per- 
suade myself that I must have been mistaken, — 
that the priest had come back and was perform- 
ing a service in some other part of the temple. In 
spite of the tapping and chanting I fell asleep again, 
and slept until morning. Then, as soon as I had 
washed and dressed, I went to look for the old nun, 
and found her. After thanking her for her kind- 
ness, I ventured to remark, * So the priest came 
back last night ? ' * He did not,* she answered 
very crossly — * I told you that he would not come 
back for seven days more.' * Please pardon me,' 

1 The mokugyo is a very curious musical instrument of wood, in the form of a 
fish's head, and is usually lacquered in red and gold. It is tapped with a stick dur- 
ing certain Buddhist chants or recitations, producing a dull hollow sound. 

' The invocation to Amitabha, Namu Amida Butsu ( * ' Hail to the Buddha 
Amitabha ! "), commonly repeated on behalf of the dead, is thus popularly named. 



I said ; * last night I heard somebody chanting the 
NembutsUy and beating the mokugyOy so I thought 
that the priest had come back.' * Oh, that was not 
the priest ! ' she exclaimed ; ' that was the danka.^ 

* Who ? * I asked ; for I could not understand her. 

* Why,' she replied, * the dead man, of course ! ^ 
That always happens when a parishioner dies ; the 
hotoke comes to sound the 

to repeat the 

mokugyo and 

Nemhutsu ' 

ifshe had been 
tomed to the 
did not seem 
while men- 

She spoke as 
so long accus- 
thing that it 
to her worth 

1 The ori^nal expression was at least equally emphatic : *' Aa^ are desuka t — 
art loa botoke ga kita no desu yo ! " The word " hotoke " means dther a Buddha 
or, as in this case, the spirit of a dead person. 



IT has been said that men fear death much as 
the child cries at entering the world, being 
unable to know what loving hands are wait- 
ing to receive it. Certainly this comparison will 
not bear scientific examination. But as a happy 
fancy it is beautiful, even for those to whom it 
can make no religious appeal whatever, — those 
who must believe that the individual mind dis- 
solves with the body, and that an eternal contin- 
uance of personality could only prove an eternal 
misfortune. It is beautiful, I think, because it 
suggests, in so intimate a way, the hope that to 
larger knowledge the Absolute will reveal itself as 
mother-love made infinite. The imagining is 
Oriental rather than Occidental ; yet it accords 
with a sentiment vaguely defined in most of our 
Western creeds. Through ancient grim concep- 
tions of the Absolute as Father, there has gradu- 
ally been infused some later and brighter dream 
p 209 


of infinite tenderness — some all -transfiguring hope 
created by the memory of Woman as Mother ; and 
the more that races evolve toward higher things, 
the more Feminine becomes their idea of a God. 
Conversely, this suggestion must remind even 
the least believing that we know of nothing else, 
in all the range of human experience, so sacred as 
mother-love, — nothing so well deserving the name 
of divine. Mother-love alone could have enabled 
the delicate life of thought to unfold and to en- 
dure upon the rind of this wretched little planet : 
only through that supreme unselfishness could 
the nobler emotions ever have found strength to 
blossom in the brain of man ; — only by help of 
mother-love could the higher forms of trust in 
the Unseen ever have been called into existence. 

But musings of this kind naturally lead us to 
ask ourselves emotional questions about the mys- 
teries of Whither and Whence. Must the 
evolutionist think of mother-love as a merely 
necessary result of material affinities, — the attrac- 
tion of the atom for the atom ? Or can he venture 
to assert, with ancient thinkers of the East, that 
all atomic tendencies are shapen by one eternal 


moral law, and that some are in themselves divine, 
being manifestations of the Four Infinite Feel- 
ings ? . . . What wisdom can decide for us ? 
And of what avail to know our highest emotions 
divine, — since the race itself is doomed to perish ? 
When mother-love shall have wrought its utter- 
most for humanity, will not even that uttermost 
have been in vain ? 

At first thought, indeed, the inevitable dissolu- 
tion must appear the blackest of imaginable trage- 
dies, — tragedy made infinite ! Eventually our 
planet must die : its azure ghost of air will shrink 
and pass, its seas dry up, its very soil perish utterly, 
leaving only a universal waste of sand and stone — 
the withered corpse of a world. Still for a time 
this mummy will turn about the sun, but only as 
the dead moon wheels now across our nights, — one 
face forever in scorching blaze, the other in icy dark- 
ness. So will it circle, blank and bald as a skull ; 
and like a skull will it bleach and crack and crumble, 
ever drawing nearer and yet more near to the face 
of its flaming parent, to vanish suddenly at last in 
the cyclonic lightning of his breath. One by one 
the remaining planets must follow. Then will the 


mighty star himself begin to fail — to flicker with 
ghastly changing colours — to crimson toward his 
death. And finally the monstrous fissured cinder 
of him, hurled into some colossal sun-pyre, will 
be dissipated into vapour more tenuous than the 
dream of the dream of a ghost. . . . 

What, then, will have availed the labour of the life 
that was, — the life effaced without one sign to mark 
the place of its disparition in the illimitable abyss ? 
What, then, the worth of mother-love, the whole 
dead world of human tenderness, with its sacrifices, 
hopes, memories, — its divine delights and diviner 
pains, — its smiles and tears and sacred caresses, — 
its countless passionate prayers to countless vanished 
gods ? 

Such doubts and fears do not trouble the thinker 
of the East. Us they disturb chiefly because of old 
wrong habits of thought, and the consequent blind 
fear of knowing that what we have so long called 
Soul belongs, not to Essence, but to Form. . . . 
Forms appear and vanish in perpetual succession ; 
but the Essence alone is Real. Nothing real can 
be lost, even in the dissipation of a million uni- 
verses. Utter destruction, everlasting death, — all 



such terms of fear have no correspondence to any 
truth but the eternal law of change. Even forms 
can perish only as waves pass and break : they melt 
but to swell anew, — nothing can be lost. . . . 

In the nebulous haze of our dissolution will sur- 
vive the essence of all that has ever been in human 
life, — the units of every existence that was or is, 
with all their affinities, all their tendencies, all their 
inheritance of forces making for good or evil, all 
the powers amassed through myriad generations, all 
energies that ever shaped the strength of races ; — 
and times innumerable will these again be orbed into 
life and thought. Transmutations there may be ; 
changes also made by augmentation or diminution 
of affinities, by subtraction or addition of tendencies ; 
for the dust of us will then have been mingled with 
the dust of other countless worlds and of their peo- 
ples. But nothing essential can be lost. We shall 
inevitably bequeath our part to the making of the 
future cosmos — to the substance out of which an- 
other intelligence will slowly be evolved. Even as 
we must have inherited something of our psychic 
being out of numberless worlds dissolved, so will 
future humanities inherit, not from us alone, but 
from millions of planets still existing. 



For the vanishing of our world can represent, in 
the disparition of a universe, but one infinitesimal 
detail of the quenching of thought : the peopled 
spheres that must share our doom will exceed for 
multitude the visible lights of heaven. 

Yet those countless solar fires, with their view- 
less millions of living planets, must somehow re- 
appear: again 
Cosmos, self- 
consu med, 
its sidereal 
the deeps of 
And the love 
forever with 
rise again, 
infinitudes of 
the everlast- 

The light of 
smile will sur- 
— the thrill 

the wondrous 
born as self- 
must resume 
whirl over 
the eternities, 
that strives 
I death shall 

\M through fresh 
pain, to renew 

the mother's 
vive our sun ; 
of her kiss 
— the sweet- 

will last beyond the thrilling of stars ; 
ness of her lullaby will endure in the cradle-songs 
of worlds yet unevolved ; — the tenderness of her 
faith will quicken the fervour of prayers to be made 
to the hosts of another heaven, — to the gods of 


a time beyond Time. And the nectar of her breasts 
can never fail : that snowy stream will still flow on, 
to nourish the life of some humanity more perfect 
than our own, when the Milky Way that spans 
our night shall have vanished forever out of Space, 




VERY much do I love cats ; and I suppose 
that I could write a large book about the 
different cats which I have kept, in various 
climes and times, on both sides of the world. But 
this is not a Book of Cats ; and I am writing about 
Tama for merely psychological reasons. She has 
been uttering, in her sleep beside my chair, a pecul- 
iar cry that touched me in a particular way. It is 
the cry that a cat makes only for her kittens, — a 
soft trilling coo, — a pure caress of tone. And I 
perceive that her attitude, as she lies there on her 
side, is the attitude of a cat holding something, — 
something freshly caught : the forepaws are stretched 
out as to grasp, and the pearly talons are playing. 

We call her Tama (" Jewel ") — not because of 
her beauty, though she is beautiful, but because 
Tama is a female name accorded by custom to pet 
cats. She was a very small tortoise-shell kitten 



when she was first brought to me as a gift worth 
accepting, — a cat-of-three-colours {miki-neko) being 
somewhat uncommon in Japan, In certain parts 
of the country such a cat is believed to be a luck- 
bringer, and gifted with power to frighten away 
gobUns as well as rats. Tama is now two years 
old. I think that she has foreign blood in her 
veins : she is more graceful and more slender than 
the ordinary Japanese cat ; and she has a remarkably 
long tail, which, from a Japanese point of view, 
is her only defect. Perhaps one of her ancestors 
came to Japan in some Dutch or Spanish ship 
during the time of lyeyasu. But, from whatever 
ancestors descended, Tama is quite a Japanese cat 
in her habits ; — for example, she eats rice 1 

The first time that she had kittens, she proved 
herself an excellent mother, — devoting all her 
strength and intelligence to the care of her little 
ones, until, by dint of nursing them and moiling for 
them, she became piteously and ludicrously thin. 
She taught them how to keep clean, — how to play 
and jump and wrestle, — how to hunt. At first, 
of course, she gave them only her long tail to play 
with ; but later she found them other toys. She 


brought them not only rats and mice, but also 
frogs, lizards, a bat, and one day a small lamprey, 
which she must have managed to catch in a neigh- 
bouring rice-field. After dark I used to leave open 
for her a small window at the head of the stairs 
leading to my study, — in order that she might 
go out to hunt by way of the kitchen roof And 
one night she brought in, through that window, 
a big straw sandal for her kittens to play with. 
She found it in the field; and she must have 
carried it over a wooden fence ten feet high, up the 
house wall to the roof of the kitchen, and thence 
through the bars of the little window to the stair- 
way. There she and her kittens played boisterously 
with it till morning ; and they dirtied the stairway, 
for that sandal was muddy. Never was cat more 
fortunate in her first maternal experience than 

But the next time she was not fortunate. She 
had got into the habit of visiting friends in another 
street, at a perilous distance ; and one evening, 
while on her way thither, she was hurt by some 
brutal person. She came back to us stupid and 
sick ; and her kittens were born dead. I thought 
that she would die also; but she recovered much 


more quickly than anybody could have imagined 
possible, — though she still remains, for obvious 
reasons, troubled in spirit by the loss of the kittens. 

The memory of animals, in regard to certain 
forms of relative experience, is strangely weak and 
dim. But the organic memory of the animal, — 
the memory of experience accumulated through 
countless billions of lives, — is superhumanly vivid, 
and very seldom at fault. . . . Think of the 
astonishing skill with which a cat can restore the 
respiration of her drowned kitten ! Think of her 
untaught ability to face a dangerous enemy seen for 
the first time, — a venomous serpent, for example ! 
Think of her wide acquaintance with small creatures 
and their ways, — her medical knowledge of herbs, 
— her capacities of strategy, whether for hunting or 
fighting ! What she knows is really considerable ; 
and she knows it all perfectly, or almost perfectly. 
But it is the knowledge of other existences. Her 
memory, as to the pains of the present life, is merci- 
fully brief. 

Tama could not clearly remember that her kittens 
were dead. She knew that she ought to have had 



kittens ; and she looked everywhere and called 
everywhere for them, long after they had been 
buried in the garden. She complained a great deal 
to her friends ; and she made me open all the cup- 
boards and closets, — over and over again, — to 
prove to her that the kittens were not in the house. 
At last she was able to convince herself that it was 
useless to look for them any more. But she plays 

with them in ^_____ dreams, and 

coos to them. 

for them 
owy things, — 
brings to 
some dim win- 
ory, a sandal 
straw. . . . 

and catches 
small shad- 
,7 perhaps even 
dow of mem- 
of ghostly 

In the Dead of the Night 

■■•'■•■'■■;;■:;••.: ■•.• • -^r:-:;;^-- ■»;;x»«^••>;^•^•=:•■.•■•i^:■:• ; 

. . :;• ^: . ■ ^^^i^-:^ 


In the Dead of the Night 

BLACK, chill, and still, — so black, so still, 
that I touch myself to find out whether I 
have yet a body. Then I grope about me 
to make sure that I am not under the earth, — 
buried forever beyond the reach of light and sound. 
... A clock strikes three ! I shall see the sun 
again ! 

Once again, at least. Possibly several thousand 
times. But there will come a night never to be 
broken by any dawn, — a stillness never to be 
broken by any sound. 

This is certain. As certain as the fact that I 

Nothing else is equally certain. Reason deludes ; 
feeling deludes ; all the senses delude. But there 
is no delusion whatever in the certain knowledge 
of that night to come. 

Doubt the reality of substance, the reality of 
ghosts, the faiths of men, the gods ; — doubt right 



and wrong, friendship and love, the existence of 
beauty, the existence of horror ; — there will always 
remain one thing impossible to doubt, — one in- 
finite blind black certainty. 

The same darkness for all, — for the eyes of 
creatures and the eyes of heaven ; — the same doom 
for all, — insect and man, ant-hill and city, races and 
worlds, suns and galaxies : inevitable dissolution, 
disparition, and oblivion. 

And vain all human striving not to remember, 
not to think : the Veil that old faiths wove, to hide 
the Void, has been rent forever away ; — and Sheol 
is naked before us, — and destruction hath no 

So surely as I believe that I exist, even so surely 
must I believe that I shall cease to exist — which is 
horror ! . . . But — 

Must I believe that I really exist .<*... 

In the moment of that self-questioning, the 
Darkness stood about me as a wall, and spake : — 

" I am only the Shadow : I shall pass. But the 
Reality will come, and will not pass. 


" I am only the Shadow. In me there are lights, 
— the glimmering of a hundred millions of suns. 
And in me there are voices. With the coming of 
the Reality, there will be no more lights, nor any 
voice, nor any rising, nor any hope. 

" But far above you there will still be sun for 
many a million years, — and warmth and youth and 
love and joy. . . . Vast azure of sky and sea, — 
fragrance of summer bloom, — shrillings in grass 
and grove, — flutter of shadows and flicker of 
light, — laughter of waters and laughter of girls. 
Blackness and silence for you, — and cold blind 

I made reply : — 

" Of thoughts like these I am now afraid. But 
that is only because I have been startled out of 
sleep. When all my brain awakens, I shall not 
be afraid. For this fear is brute fear only, — the 
deep and dim primordial fear bequeathed me from 
the million ages of the life of instinct. . . . Already 
it is passing. I can begin to think of death as dream- 
less rest, — a sleep with no sensation of either joy 
or pain." 

The Darkness whispered : — 

" What is sensation ? " 


And I could not answer, and the Gloom took 
weight, and pressed upon me, and said : — 

" You do not know what is sensation ? How, 
then, can you say whether there will or will not 
be pain for the dust of you, — the molecules of your 
body, the atoms of your soul ? . . . Atoms — what 
are they ? " 

Again I could make no answer, and the weight 
of the Gloom waxed greater — a weight of pyramids 

— and the whisper hissed : — 

" Their repulsions ? their attractions ? The awful 
clingings of them and the leapings ? . . . What are 
these ? . . . Passions of lives burnt out ? — furies 
of insatiable desire ? — frenzies of everlasting hate ? 

— madnesses of never ending torment ? . . . You 
do not know? But you say that there will be no 
more pain ! . . ." 

Then I cried out to the mocker : — 

" I am awake — awake — fully awake ! I have 
ceased to fear ; — I remember ! . . . All that I am 
is all that I have been. Before the beginnings of 
Time I was ; — beyond the uttermost circling of the 
Eternities I shall endure. In myriad million forms 
I but seem to pass : as form I am only Wave ; as 
essence I am Sea. Sea without shore I am ; — and 


Doubt and Fear and 
fleet on the face of 
behold the illusions 
know myself timeless : 
neither form 
yet also one 
begins and 
the grave and 
graves, — the 
the eater of 

Pain are but duskings that 
my depth. . . . Asleep, I 
of Time ; but, waking, I 

one with the Life that has 
nor name, 
with all that 
ends, — even 
the maker of 
corpse and 
corpses. . . ." 


A sparrow twittered from the roof; another re- 
sponded. Shapes of things began to define in a 
soft gray glimmering ; — and the gloom slowly 
lightened. Murmurs of the city's wakening came 
to my ears, and grew and multiplied. And the 
dimness flushed. 


Then rose the beautiful and holy Sun, the 
mighty Quickener, the mighty Putrefier, — sym- 
bol sublime of that infinite Life whose forces are 
also mine ! . . . 



Issun no mushi ni mo gobu no tamashii. 

— Japanese Proverb. 

ii w m .' w i i i»»— ^wwi^« 


HIS cage is exactly two Japanese inches high 
and one inch and a half wide : its tiny 
wooden door, turning upon a pivot, will 
scarcely admit the tip of my little finger. But he has 
plenty of room in that cage, — room to walk, and 
jump, and fly ; for he is so small that you must look 
very carefully through the brown-gauze sides of it in 
order to catch a glimpse of him. I have always to 
turn the cage round and round, several times, in 
a good light, before I can discover his whereabouts ; 
and then I usually find him resting in one of the 
upper corners, — clinging, upside down, to his ceil- 
ing of gauze. 

Imagine a cricket about the size of an ordinary 
mosquito, — with a pair of antennae much longer than 
his own body, and so fine that you can distinguish 
them only against the light. Kusa-Hibari^ or 
" Grass-Lark," is the Japanese name of him ; and 
he is worth in the market exactly twelve cents : 



that is to say, very much more than his weight in 
gold. Twelve cents for such a gnat-like thing ! . . . 

By day he sleeps or meditates, except while occu- 
pied with the slice of fresh egg-plant or cucumber 
which must be poked into his cage every morn- 
ing. . . . To keep him clean and well fed is some- 
what troublesome : could you see him, you would 
think it absurd to take any pains for the sake of a 
creature so ridiculously small. 

But always at sunset the infinitesimal soul of him 
awakens : then the room begins to fill with a deli- 
cate and ghostly music of indescribable sweetness, 
— a thin, thin silvery rippling and trilling as of 
tiniest electric bells. As the darkness deepens, the 
sound becomes sweeter, — sometimes swelling till 
the whole house seems to vibrate with the elfish 
resonance, — sometimes thinning down into the faint- 
est imaginable thread of a voice. But loud or low, 
it keeps a penetrating quality that is weird. . . . 
All night, the atomy thus sings : he ceases only 
when the temple bell proclaims the hour of dawn. 

Now this tiny song is a song of love, — vague 
love of the unseen and unknown. It is quite im- 
possible that he should ever have seen or known, 


in this present existence of his. Not even his 
ancestors, for many generations back, could have 
known anything of the night-Hfe of the fields, or 
the amorous value of song. They were born of 
eggs hatched in a jar of clay, in the shop of some 
insect-merchant ; and they dwelt thereafter only 
in cages. But he sings the song of his race as it 
was sung a myriad years ago, and as faultlessly as 
if he understood the exact significance of every 
note. Of course he did not learn the song. It is 
a song of organic memory, — deep, dim memory of 
other quintillions of lives, when the ghost of him 
shrilled at night from the dewy grasses of the hills. 
Then that song brought him love — and death. 
He has forgotten all about death ; but he remem- 
bers the love. And therefore he sings now — for 
the bride that will never come. 

So that his longing is unconsciously retrospec- 
tive : he cries to the dust of the past, — he calls 
to the silence and the gods for the return of 
time. . . . Human lovers do very much the same 
thing without knowing it. They call their illu- 
sion an Ideal ; and their Ideal is, after all, a mere 
shadowing of race-experience, a phantom of organic 
memory. The living present has very little to do 


with it. . . . Perhaps this atomy also has an ideal, 
or at least the rudiment of an ideal ; but, in any 
event, the tiny desire must utter its plaint in vain. 
The fault is not altogether mine. I had been 
warned that if the creature were mated, he would 
cease to sing and would speedily die. But, night 
after night, the plaintive, sweet, unanswered trill- 
ing touched me like a reproach, — became at last 
an obsession, an affliction, a torment of conscience ; 
and I tried to buy a female. It was too late in 
the season ; there were no more kusa-hibari for 
sale, — either males or females. The insect-mer- 
chant laughed and said, "He ought to have died 
about the twentieth day of the ninth month." (It 
was already the second day of the tenth month.) 
But the insect-merchant did not know that I have 
a good stove in my study, and keep the tempera- 
ture at above 75° F. Wherefore my grass-lark 
still sings at the close of the eleventh month, 
and I hope to keep him alive until the Period 
of Greatest Cold. However, the rest of his gen- 
eration are probably dead : neither for love nor 
money could I now find him a mate. And were 
I to set him free in order that he might make 
the search for himself, he could not possibly live 



through a single night, even if fortunate enough 
to escape by day the multitude of his natural 
enemies in the garden, — ants, centipedes, and 
ghastly earth-spiders. 

'!>> ^»S 

Last evening — the twenty-ninth of the eleventh 
month — an odd feeling came to me as I sat at 
my desk : a sense of emptiness in the room. Then 
I became aware that my grass-lark was silent, con- 
trary to his wont. I went to the silent cage, and 
found him lying dead beside a dried-up lump of 
egg-plant as gray and hard as a stone. Evidently 
he had not been fed for three or four days ; but 
only the night before his death he had been sing- 
ing wonderfully, — so that I foolishly imagined 
him to be more than usually contented. My stu- 
dent, Aki, who loves insects, used to feed him ; 
but Aki had gone into the country for a week's 
holiday, and the duty of caring for the grass-lark 
had devolved upon Hana, the housemaid. She is 
not sympathetic, Hana the housemaid. She says 
that she did not forget the mite, — but there was 


no more egg-plant. And she had never thought 
of substituting a sHce of onion or of cucumber ! 
. . . I spoke words of reproof to Hana the 
housemaid, and she dutifully expressed contrition. 
But the fairy-music has stopped ; and the stillness 
reproaches; and the room is cold, in spite of the 

Absurd ! . . . I have made a good girl un- 
happy because of an insect half the size of a barley- 
grain ! The quenching of that infinitesimal life 
troubles me more than I could have believed pos- 
sible. . . . Of course, the mere habit of think- 
ing about a creature's wants — even the wants of a 
cricket — may create, by insensible degrees, an 
imaginative interest, an attachment of which one 
becomes conscious only when the relation is broken. 
Besides, I had felt so much, in the hush of the 
night, the charm of the delicate voice, — telling of 
one minute existence dependent upon my will and 
selfish pleasure, as upon the favour of a god, — 
telling me also that the atom of ghost in the tiny 
cage, and the atom of ghost within myself, were 
forever but one and the same in the deeps of the 
Vast of being. . . . And then to think of the 



little creature hungering and thirsting, night after 
night, and day after day, while the thoughts of his 
guardian deity were turned to the weaving of 
dreams ! . . . How bravely, nevertheless, he sang 
on to the very end, — an atrocious end, for he had 
eaten his own legs ! . . . May the gods forgive 
us all, — especially Hana the housemaid! 

Yet, after 
one's own legs 
not the worst 
pen to a being 
the gift of 
are human 
must eat their 
order to sing. 

'.■■ '• •;•'....■ 
'.■■'*• ' • •' v 

1 AnUI^Hi^M^Y- 






■ 1 



all, to devour 
for hunger is 
that can hap- 
cursed with 
song. There 
crickets who 
own hearts in 


The Eater of Dreams 

The Eater of Dreams 

Mijika-yo ya! 
Baku no yume ku 
Hima mo nashi! 

— ''Alas! how short this night of ours! The Baku will not 
even have time to eat our dreams ! ' ' 

— Old Japanese Love-song. 

THE name of the creature is Baku, or 
Shirokinakatsukami ; and its particular 
function is the eating of Dreams. It is 
variously represented and described. An ancient 
book in my possession states that the male Baku 
has the body of a horse, the face of a lion, the trunk 
and tusks of an elephant, the forelock of a rhinoc- 
eros, the tail of a cow, and the feet of a tiger. The 
female Baku is said to differ greatly in shape from 
the male ; but the difference is not clearly set forth. 

In the time of the old Chinese learning, pictures 
of the Baku used to be hung up in Japanese houses, 



such pictures being supposed to exert the same 
beneficent power as the creature itself. My ancient 
book contains this legend about the custom : — 

"In the Shbsei-Roku it is declared that Kotei, while 
hunting on the Eastern coast, once met with a Baku 
having the body of an animal, but speaking like a man. 
Kotei said : ' Since the world is quiet and at peace, why 
should we still see goblins ? If a Baku be needed to 
extinguish evil sprites, then it were better to have a picture 
of the Baku suspended to the wall of one's house. There- 
after, even though some evil Wonder should appear, it 
could do no harm.' " 

Then there is given a long list of evil Wonders, 
and the signs of their presence : — 

" When the Hen lays a soft eggy the demon s name is 

" When snakes appear entwined together y the demon* s 
name is Jinzu. 

" When dogs go with their ears turned backy the 
demon* s name is Taiyo. 

" When the Fox speaks with the voice of a many the 
demon s name is Gwaishu. 

" When blood appears on the clothes of meny the 
demands name is Yuki. 



43» /•Jj' 


" When the rice-pot speaks with a human voice y the 
demon s name is Kanjo. 

" When the dream of the night is an evil dream^ the 
demon s name is Ringetsu. . . ." 

And the old book further observes : " When- 
ever any such evil marvel happens, let the name 
of the Baku be invoked : then the evil sprite 
will immediately sink three feet under the ground." 

But on the subject of evil Wonders I do not 
feel qualified to discourse : it belongs to the un- 
explored and appalling world of Chinese demonol- 
ogy, and it has really very little to do with the 
subject of the Baku in Japan. The Japanese 
Baku is commonly known only as the Eater of 
Dreams ; and the most remarkable fact in relation 
to the cult of the creature is that the Chinese 
character representing its name used to be put in 
gold upon the lacquered wooden pillows of lords 
and princes. By the virtue and power of this 
character on the pillow, the sleeper was thought 
to be protected from evil dreams. It is rather 
difficult to find such a pillow to-day : even pic- 
tures of the Baku (or " Hakutaku," as it is some- 


times called) have become very rare. But the old 
invocation to the Baku still survives in common 
parlance : Baku kurae ! Baku kurae ! — " Devour, 
O Baku ! devour my evil dream ! " . . . When 
you awake from a nightmare, or from any unlucky 
dream, you should quickly repeat that invocation 
three times ; — then the Baku will eat the dream, 
and will change the misfortune or the fear into 
good fortune and gladness. 

It was on a very sultry night, during the Period 
of Greatest Heat, that I last saw the Baku. I 
had just awakened out of misery ; and the hour 
was the Hour of the Ox ; and the Baku came in 
through the window to ask, " Have you anything 
for me to eat ? " 

I gratefully made answer: — 

" Assuredly ! . . . Listen, good Baku, to this 
dream of mine ! — 

" I was standing in some great white-walled 
room, where lamps were burning ; but I cast no 


shadow on the naked floor of that room, — and 
there, upon an iron bed, I saw my own dead body. 
How I had come to die, and when I had died, I 
could not remember. Women were sitting near 
the bed, — six or seven, — and I did not know any 
of them. They were neither young nor old, and 
all were dressed in black : watchers I took them 
to be. They sat motionless and silent : there was 
no sound in the place ; and I somehow felt that 
the hour was late. 

"In the same moment I became aware of some- 
thing nameless in the atmosphere of the room, — 
a heaviness that weighed upon the will, — some 
viewless numbing power that was slowly growing. 
Then the watchers began to watch each other, 
stealthily ; and I knew that they were afraid. 
Soundlessly one rose up, and left the room. 
Another followed ; then another. So, one by 
one, and lightly as shadows, they all went out. 
I was left alone with the corpse of myself. 

" The lamps still burned clearly ; but the terror 
in the air was thickening. The watchers had 
stolen away almost as soon as they began to feel 
it. But I believed that there was yet time to 
escape ; — I thought that I could safely delay a 


moment longer. A monstrous curiosity obliged 
me to remain : I wanted to look at my own body, 
to examine it closely. ... I approached it. I 
observed it. And I wondered — because it seemed 
to me very long, — unnaturally long. . . . 

" Then I thought that I saw one eyelid quiver. 
But the appearance of motion might have been 
caused by the trembling of a lamp-flame. I stooped 
to look — slowly, and very cautiously, because I 
was afraid that the eyes might open. 

"'It is Myself,' I thought, as I bent down, — 
* and yet, it is growing queer ! ' . . . The face 
appeared to be lengthening. ... * It is not My- 
self,' I thought again, as I stooped still lower, 
— ' and yet, it cannot be any other ! ' And I 
became much more afraid, unspeakably afraid, that 
the eyes would open. . . . 

" 'They OPENED ! — horribly they opened ! — and 
that thing sprang, — sprang from the bed at me, 
and fastened upon me, — moaning, and gnawing, 
and rending ! Oh ! with what madness of terror 
did I strive against it ! But the eyes of it, and 
the moans of it, and the touch of it, sickened ; 
and all my being seemed about to burst asunder 
in frenzy of loathing, when — I knew not how — 



I found in my hand an axe. And I struck with 
the axe ; — I clove, I crushed, I brayed the 
Moaner, — until there lay before me only a shape- 
less, hideous, reeking mass, — the abominable ruin 
of Myself. . . . 

" — Baku kurae ! Baku kurae ! 
Devour, O Baku ! devour the dream 

" Nay !" 
the Baku, 
lucky dreams, 
lucky dream, 
tunate dream. 
— yes ! the 
which the 
Self is utterly 
The best kind jf; 

My friend, / 

Baku kurae ! 

made answer 
" I never eat 
That is a very 
— a most for- 
. . . The axe 
Axe of the 
Law, by 
monster of 
destroyed ! . . . 
of a dream ! 
believe in the 
the Buddha." 

And the Baku went out of the window. I 
looked after him ; — and I beheld him fleeing over 
the miles of moonlit roofs, — passing, from house- 
top to house-top, with amazing soundless leaps, — 
like a great cat. . . . 


A Record of Modem Life in the Island Empire 

Author of " Palladia," " The Brown Ambassador," etc. 
WUh Two Hundred and Fifty lUustratloam 

In two volumes. Cloth. 8vo. $7.50, net 

" As the wife of the British Minister to Japan, the author of these letters had 
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Author of " Letters from Japan," etc. 

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Gold Medallist Royal Geographical Society ; Silver Medallist Society of 
Arts ; fortnerly Deputy Commissioner, Burmah ; Administrator of 
Mashonaland, South Africa; and Special Correspond- 
ent of the "London Times" in the Far East. 
Author of "China in Transformation^ " The 'Overland ' to China" etc. 

With special maps, and more than loo illustrations 
from original sketches and photographs 

Cloth. 8vo. $4.00, net 

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compare the various methods employed by Western nations in the Pacific. . . . 
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the terms will become synonymous when the Trans-Isthmian Canal is made — 
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